This isn’t a ranking of the best announcers of women’s golf. I wanted to put some of my thoughts down about what I like and don’t like about the folks who supply the soundtrack to our weekends. Feel free to comment – your opinion on this is just as valid as mine.
Dottie Pepper (GC and NBC)
For my money, Dottie IS the voice of women’s golf. She has just the right mix of technical knowledge, LPGA history, player perspective and self-depreciating humor. She can be blunt at times, as she was (accidentally on-air) at the Solheim Cup, but in retrospect – Steinhauer and Diaz did blow their match that day. Pepper isn’t quite as insensitive as Johnny Miller (she would require an epidural to reach that level) but the candor she provides is fine – a bad shot or decision deserves to be called one. She tends to lean a little too often on Paula Creamer for material but that may be by corporate design as much as her personal preference.
Brian Hammons (GC)
Brian handles the jobs of host, play-by-play and setup man for Dottie Pepper to perfection. He’s not flashy but he knows the players very well and has a good sense of humor (he stole my “Free-Berg” joke at the Fields Open). Last year while Grant Boone was doing several LPGA events, I ran across Hammons covering the Champions Tour for GC. It sounded creepy, hearing Brian talk about those old guys instead of the girls. There’s no “D” in his last name and I have to go look it up every time I go to type it.
Judy Rankin (ESPN and CBS)
I like to think of Judy as the Matron Saint of golf broadcasting. She embodies that generation when the women’s game wasn’t quite the competitive blast furnace it is now. Oh I’m certain Rankin would carve up an opposing player in her day but I’m equally certain she did it with the grace of a Southern belle. A year ago I was getting a little tired of her “Lorena isn’t really #1 until she wins a major” stuff (which was odd considering Judy herself never won one) but I usually cut Southern belles a lot of slack. ESPN had her walking the course behind the Dream Team of Woods, Mickelson and Scott at the U.S. Open – yes, walking the course. That ain’t no way to treat a Lady, people! Especially one who is a cancer survivor.
Andy North (ESPN)
North is an outstanding analyst in a technical sense, probably the best of those regularly covering the LPGA. Analyzing swings and discussing shot strategy are just a couple of his strong suits. Paired with Rankin, Andy gets to shine despite his relative lack of LPGA perspective. He has a really tough time saying “Miyazato” (I heard him stumble through it again at the Stanford Pro-Am) and aside from the major participants, he doesn’t offer much biographical content. Most likely, he’ll expand that knowledge base in the coming seasons.
Terry Gannon (ESPN)
ESPN does golf differently than most, with three people in the booth. Gannon is the host who sets up Rankin and North with whatever point the producer wishes for them to focus on. Terry isn’t required to do much beyond that, read promos, throw to the on-course reporter and take us in and out of commercials (although North does that almost as much as Gannon). Did you know Terry was a key member of Jim Valvano’s 1983 NCAA Champion NC State basketball team?
Grant Boone (GC)
I have written more negative comments about Grant Boone than probably any other person. Most of it was warranted, but Boone is NOT a terrible announcer. On the contrary – he knows more about LPGA history than most of the others on this list (Pepper and Rankin are his only equals). He also showed good work shepherding Beth Daniel (the infamous “Daniel/Boone” combo) through her booth struggles last year. Problem #1 – he chooses to pass most of his knowledge through an Annika Sorenstam prism, as though we couldn’t possibly comprehend what he was saying without keeping the Ice Queen’s accomplishments in mind. Problem #2 – Brian Hammons does a better job of steering the Golf Channel ship and we don’t have to hear Lorena Ochoa’s first name get mangled when Brian is around. Like I said, Boone isn’t terrible. We just deserve better. And so far in 2008, we’ve gotten it.
Verne Lundquist (CBS)
The best pipes of anyone who ever called a golf tournament, with the possible exception of Pat Summerall. CBS has let him warm up for the Masters by calling the Kraft Nabisco the last couple of years and though his knowledge of the LPGA is extremely limited, I enjoyed every minute of it. Nothing against Bill Macatee, but Verne needs to handle all of CBS’ LPGA commitments. Especially since his first name is actually Laverne. You can look it up.
Bobby Clampett (CBS)
This and this are all you need to know about my opinion on Bobby Clampett. I hear he’s begun losing pieces of his PGA gig, so I’m apparently not alone.
Dan Hicks (NBC)
He’s that guy who usually spends his weekends talking to Johnny Miller about Tiger Woods. Dan is a great golf announcer. NBC lets Dottie join him in the booth for LPGA events and with her assistance, he’s great at calling them too. Since I haven’t seen Dan call a ladies event without Dottie, I doubt he would be as good without her but my guess is that he would do fine.
Bill Macatee (CBS)
Good, solid, underrated golf announcer. Bill doesn’t stand out from the field too much, except that it seems like he’s been working golf telecasts for 25 years and still looks like he’s in his 30s. Was this the first year since the late ‘80s that Macatee didn’t have a job at the Masters? If he was there, I missed him. Like with Hicks – make sure you’ve got a good LPGA-specific analyst with him in the booth.
These folks are indispensable to a golf broadcast – if you don’t believe me, wait until the Evian Masters when we won’t have them around. Now that they all carry SkyCaddies, they can spend more time chatting up the players and caddies or listening in on their conversations for important/entertaining tidbits.
Kay Cockerill (GC and NBC)
As a mainstay of GC’s LPGA coverage, Kay is one of my favorites. Either she and Dottie travel on the same thought-train or they have consistently great production meetings, because one always seems to follow the other’s point like they were reading a script. If they ARE reading a script, somebody at Golf Channel is a damn good writer.
Charlie Rymer (ESPN and CBS)
I used to think Charlie Rymer was only on the course to supply comic relief. He still does that from time to time but he does a very good job of getting that info I talked about before out of players and caddies during a round. Conducts a pretty good post-round interview as well.
Jane Crafter (ESPN and NBC)
The main reason I like Jane is her Aussie accent. Notice that ALL of the other persons listed here are Americans. Crafter fulfills that basic need we all have to hear an Australian/British/Irish accent during a golf telecast. I particularly love how she throws to Rymer, calling him “Chollie”. Karrie Webb must have some kind of contract which requires Crafter to follow her group whenever both are on the course. Seriously, Jane is a solid reporter – one of my favorites.
Val Skinner (GC and CBS)
Val is a veteran of over ten broadcast seasons and a solid one. She’s a little more prone to mistakes than the others I’ve already listed but I’ve never heard her say anything to make me exclaim “WTF are you talking about!” like so many other sports announcers have. She also has her own foundation to fight breast cancer so any mistakes she makes, I usually let them slide.
Beth Daniel (GC and CBS)
Daniel is still working on her TV persona. In the booth, she has too much trouble keeping her eyes trained on the camera and hasn’t ever looked comfortable. On the course, she hasn’t gotten enough experience yet but seems to be fitting in much better there. I hope she sticks with it (and her employers allow her to) long enough for us to find out how much she knows about this game.
Mark Rolfing (NBC)
Mark doesn’t cover the LPGA as much as these other folks because he also works NBC’s PGA productions. As you might expect, he does a good job getting the info you want from your on-course reporter but he really needs to come up with a different line to send us to commercial. He’s completely worn out “we’ll see if blah-blah player can blah-blah when we come back to blah-blah golf course”.
Rosie Jones (GC)
This is what I was talking about in the Beth Daniel comment. Rosie spent part of two seasons as an on-course reporter for Golf Channel. She made plenty of mistakes like saying “green” when she meant “fairway” and other stuff like that. But like Daniel, Jones has 20+ years of Tour knowledge that would emerge here and there and make you say “I’ve never heard that before, tell me more”. Judging by her statements made during Corning week, Rosie’s commentating days may be over – that’s a real shame.
Tina Mickelson (GC and CBS)
I’ve only seen Tina do a couple of LPGA events so I can’t really give an accurate description of her talents. I mention her only because she was the subject of probably my stupidest blog statement ever – her brother is somebody you may have heard of – and I also called her “Lisa”. I’ve forced myself to proof-read each post twice ever since.
Mike Ritz (GC)
Ritzy usually handles the post-round interviews for GC (a feature that more telecasts should make use of) and he is very good at it, especially the ones with the lesser-known players. He has a knack for keeping the nervous ones at ease and makes even the interviews with those less accomplished in English pleasant to watch. Occasionally GC will send Mike onto the course to follow a group and he does an OK job there. They let him handle booth duties at Corning and he did fairly well. I would keep him in his niche, though.