There’s a story that appeared in Fairways last week that says the Golf Channel is not renewing Brian Hammons’ contract. Brian’s last broadcast on TGC was this past Sunday’s final round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. This makes me very sad. Brian Hammons was the very first announcer on the air when TGC launched in 1994, and he’s been a network stalwart ever since.
For the first few years, Brian co-hosted the nightly golf news show, Golf Central, alongside his friend Jennifer Mills. Then, around the same time that Jennifer left the station, Brian was moved off the anchor desk and into the broadcast tower, primarily on Golf Channel’s Senior Tour coverage. I was quite interested in watching this transition at the time. I had figured that Brian was a good anchorman-type, reading other peoples’ scripts off a teleprompter, but wasn’t sure whether he could handle live coverage and ad-libbing. Well, he allayed my doubts right off the bat, and has turned out to be, in my opinion, as good as any golf broadcast anchor, on a par with Jim Nantz, Dan Hicks and Mike Tirico.
Unfortunately, the Senior Tour has shrunk in overall popularity over the last decade, so there may even be readers of this blog who have no idea who I’m talking about.
I had the good fortune to spend about an hour chatting with Brian Hammons, about 15 years ago, in his cubicle at the Golf Channel. I was there one day, to be interviewed by Adam Barr, who, at the time, covered the business side of golf for Golf Central. (I had just launched an internet-based golf business, and was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk about it on TGC.) My friend Jennifer Mills had set this up for me; and after playing a round of golf with Adam and Jennifer, we went back to the studio and had some time to kill before we could tape the five-minute spot. Jennifer’s cubicle was beside Brian’s so the three of us just sat for an hour and chatted. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy.
Brian announced his fate on a tweet last week, saying, in part: “The television industry is going through tough times right now. Many talented people are losing their jobs because of budget cuts. I just happen to be one of them.” That was a nice way of stating the truth. A more bitter person might have said, “I’ve been sacked… and while THEY told me it was budget cuts, I think it’s just because I’m getting old, and they can hire a younger, better-looking person for a lot less money. Let’s see how many other on-air people they get rid of through these so-called budget cuts.”
The first part of Brian’s statement is certainly accurate, though. Traditional television is indeed going through tough times. Audiences are much smaller than they were ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. Smaller audiences mean that broadcasters can’t charge as much for their advertising time, which means they don’t have as much money to spend to put on the same quality of shows, and on-air talent. Many advertisers have abandoned television for internet and social media. It’s a vicious circle, and to continue to attract audiences at all, they resort to whatever tactics they can… like hiring younger, prettier, and less expensive talent.
Brian Hammons has his own production company, and he’s been in sports broadcasting for nearly three decades. So I assume he has lots of friends, contacts and connections, and even if he doesn’t get a handsome on-air job soon, I’m sure he won’t suffer. But that’s not the point.
The point is that we who do watch golf coverage on the Golf Channel will be deprived of the presence of a smooth, reliable and personable anchor on those broadcasts. Not many will care, but I will.
And I’d like to thank Brian for his 21 years on my favourite channel, and wish him all the very best. Keep it in the short grass, Brian.