Thoughts on Peter Alliss; current broadcasters and the 2020 Doofus of the Year

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The golf world lost one of its best on Saturday with the passing of legendary announcer Peter Alliss at the age of 89. Not only was he the ‘Voice of Golf’ for generations of golf fans, he also had a stellar playing career, wrote dozens of books, designed over 50 golf courses worldwide and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012. What’s your take on the passing of Peter Alliss and the contributions he made to golf broadcasting in particular?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): There was simply no one better, and I include the beloved Henry Longhurst in that statement, although I would give the nod to Peter Alliss as the all-time best.  Such economy of words, but each word and phrase carefully chosen, and always appropriate to the moment.  What a thrill it must’ve been to work alongside him – in the broadcast booth, or anywhere for that matter.  As I said in my Facebook post about his death, I had the privilege of talking to Peter by telephone, once, in 1994, when we invited him to be part of our Skins Game broadcast.  He easily could’ve had an assistant call me back, but he was too polite and too British to do that.  And he called me “Mr. Deeks” throughout the chat.  I thought I was talking to God.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: People like Peter Allis don’t come along frequently enough. He could be crisp, slightly obnoxious even annoying but he was thought-provoking, honest and fair. A perfect example of his wit is found in this statement re bifurcation. Quote “Car manufacturers sell cars to be driven on the roads by normal people not to be used in Formula 1 racing”.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It was certainly sad news to hear, he’s one of the legends of the game and will be sorely missed.  Not only was he a great player, but given my age, I knew him more as a broadcaster, and he was one of the best.  His voice was perfect for the gig and he always had an eloquent way of describing the game, along with a great sense of humour.  The fact that he was still working the Masters last month at the age of 89 is amazing.  RIP Mr. Alliss, you will be missed.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Some years ago, found me in Jolly Olde during The Open. In my shockingly expensive hotel room in Charring Cross, the tiny TV sat on a chest of drawers. If a drawer were open, one could not make it to the loo between the bed and the chest. Sitting on that lumpy, narrow mattress, staring at the tired 18-inch screen (probably paid extra for the service), I was absorbed by the BBC coverage of The Open — particularly the mellifluous, charming, understated, and humourous phrasing of Alliss. It was brilliant and such a dramatic contrast to the histrionic and cliched non-stop multiple-voice distractions of the U.S. coverage I’d grown up with. One writer said that when Alliss joined the BBC team (after a sterling career) the images were in black and white, but he made technicolor. And he did.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): When Open Championship broadcasts switched from the American crew to the British team, to give the former a break, it always seemed like we got finally got the A team. There was just something more authentic and less frantic about the coverage and most of that came down to Peter Alliss. The man had countless stories to tell and sometimes they had to be interrupted so golf fans could see some of the action, but that didn’t deter Alliss or diminish the impact of his story. I never felt he was prattling on like many of today’s announcers. He actually had something to contribute instead of being part of the echo chamber. He was hired because he was a great storyteller, not for his playing record or his celebrity, unlike most of today’s talking heads.

In honour of Peter Alliss, who is your current favourite golf broadcaster or analyst?

Deeks: I have a few, but quite honestly, I think the one I most respect, and never get tired of listening to, is Judy Rankin on the LPGA telecasts.  She is so steady, so knowledgeable, so informative, so interesting, so unpretentious, so dependable, and so modest… everything an excellent commentator should be.  And in her own way, very much like Peter Alliss.

Schurman: Currently there is a log-jamb as multiple announcers are clambering for the top spot. Each is trying to outshine the others and the competition comes across in their broadcasts. The best announcers made the story be the most important topic……..”Let’s just be quiet and let the moment speak for itself”. Ian Baker-Finch is OK, but my favourite is Mark Rolfing. He is low key, has a pleasant voice, isn’t over-bearing, is extremely knowledgeable and consistently good every time he works. Most of all, he does a lot of research before going ‘on-air’.

Rule: Two of my favourites are hosts Jim Nantz and Mike Tirico.  They don’t cause any controversy but go about their business in a very professional manner.  In terms of colour commentators if you will, I like Frank Nobilo and Dottie Pepper.  Again, no nonsense, they aren’t there to try to be a stand-up comedian, but they know the game and players well and are a joy to listen to.

Quinn: It’s close, but Chris Collinsworth and Tony Romo are so much better …. sorry, couldn’t think of a favourite golf commentator for a minute there. One guy who seems to really enjoy what he’s doing and is particularly good at it is Jerry Foltz, who also seems to have no burning desire to move from the LPGA Tour to the PGA Tour broadcasts. And it’s always nice on a Sunday afternoon to hear Roger Maltbie interjecting some calm amid the yattering from the booths.

Mumford: Two that I had in mind – Judy Rankin and Jerry Foltz – were already picked, so I’ll throw another name into the mix: Brandel Chamblee. He’s always well researched and rarely afraid to take a position, even if it goes against conventional wisdom or popular sentiment. What I like most about Chamblee is that he can be self-deprecating and has a sense of humour, two things sorely lacking amongst the regular talking heads on the major networks. It’s ironic that Rankin, Foltz and Chamblee are not part of any PGA Tour broadcast team.

Our penultimate selection in the 2020 Fairways Awards is the annual Doofus Award, given to the person, company or event that had the worst flop or PR nightmare of the year.  Who (or what) is your nominee for the 2020 Doofus Award?

Deeks: Pardon my political bias, and I find it hard to type this name for my Doofus nominee, but it is: JACK NICKLAUS… for his last-minute endorsement of Donald Trump.  Doofus may not be the appropriate description, but surely Jack’s statement was the PR nightmare of the year in golf.  I always suspected that Jack was a Republican, but for someone known for his ethics and good grace throughout his career, his ringing support of one of history’s most despisable (sic) leaders (IMO) just hit like a shotgun blast from close range.  And I’m sure, in the process, lost him millions of fans at this late stage in his public career.

Schurman: The 2020 Doofus Award goes to Patrick Reed for his kafuffle in the Bahamas. Reed is earning a reputation for tiptoeing back and forth across the line of integrity and it won’t go away easily.

Rule: I have to pick Bryson DeChambeau to be my Doofus of the Year.  It’s not because he transformed his body and game to hit the ball as far as possible, because that’s actually been very impressive, and the fact that he won a US Open playing that way justified his transformation.  The doofus part comes in his handling of the media.  The one instance in particular is when he berated a cameraman for getting one of his hissy fits on tv and “ruining” his image. I think he did a good job of that all by himself.

Quinn: The 2020 edition of this unique Award (pronounced Due-Fuss) goes to a most deserving recipient, one who is in the running every year and one day will most likely have the Award named after him. During a hit and giggle, with nothing more at stake than tax-free Bahamian dollars (on par, so to speak, with the US greenback) Patrick Reed grounded his club and improved his lie in a bunker — twice — and then lied about it repeatedly despite clear and present HD video evidence to the contrary. That behaviour is the Oxford and Webster’s definition of doofusism. You could look it up.

Mumford: Patrick Reed may indeed get the Doofus Award named after him but I’m going to agree with Mr. Deeks here. I was totally gobsmacked when I read that letter written by Jack Nicklaus in support of Donald Trump. Nicklaus has been a hero of mine since I was a kid, not just for his playing record but also for his overt demonstrations of fair play, good etiquette and integrity. That he could publicly support someone who is the exact opposite of that is demoralizing. I still think Jack’s the best player ever and I imagine his reasons for supporting Trump were more financial than personal, but it still hurts. They say we should never put athletes up on a pedestal as it just leads to disappointment when we find out they have flaws, just like us. Fortunately, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are still ok.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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