Golf on the Radio
This is an article from the May 10, 1999 issue
Golf on the radio has never played as well as, say, baseball on
the radio. Golf play-by-play requires too many people for too
little payoff, and instructional bits are too hard to follow.
That leaves the sport only music (Deejay Singh, spinning your
favorites) and talk (bunker rakes: in or out?), which is why so
few golf shows succeed.
Hooked on Golf, on San Francisco's 50,000-watt KNBR-68 (680 AM)
every Saturday at 9 a.m., is the exception. Based on ratings,
market size and the fact that cohosts John Abendroth and Mitch
Juricich have been on the air for five years now, it has to be
considered the most successful of the few golf radio shows in
existence. "When we started [in '94], the station director was
leery of us doing a bunch of 'Here's the proper grip' segments,
which you can't show on the radio," says Abendroth, who made 10
cuts on the PGA Tour from 1975 to '77 and still keeps his game
sharp enough to make an occasional stab at the Nike tour. "We've
found ways to get around that."
Over the past five years, tuning your radio to KNBR (or your
computer to knbr.com) on a Saturday morning has meant hearing
people like Juli Inkster, Sam Snead and Harvie Ward. Rules guru
Grant Spaeth, the former USGA president, is a frequent
contributor, as is CBS announcer and Senior tour favorite Gary
McCord. Then there are the no-names, like the retiree who played
50 rounds of golf in 50 states in 50 days and called in
regularly to update his progress. Abendroth and Juricich even
have a TV show, also called Hooked on Golf, which is in its
fifth year of syndication on Fox Sports. The first time they
taped it, Juricich had to give Abendroth a shot of brandy to get
his mouth to work.
While their TV show tends to be a travelogue, Abendroth and
Juricich try to provide "the biggest variety possible" on the
radio, Abendroth says. There is at least one constant. Juricich,
who can shoot 92 one day and 79 the next, is the Everyman.
Abendroth, who gives lessons at nearby Crystal Springs Golf
Course, is the expert. "Take the new Srixon ball," Juricich
says. "He might say, 'What feel.' I say, 'How's it going to help
me? What's the difference between a Top-Flite I knock in the
water and a Srixon I knock in the water?'"
Abendroth and Juricich are routinely asked for autographs. Their
TV show is moving into Los Angeles. No one will ever mistake
their show for one of those sports-talk radio programs that
thrive on contentious debate, but that's fine with them. "With a
baseball or a football team it becomes territorial--my city
against your city," says Juricich. "In golf there's more kinship."
Tiger's NCAA Record Falls
PAUL CASEY'S 60 SETS NEW LOW
Last week, while winning the Pac-10 championship at Seattle's
Broadmoor Golf Club, Paul Casey, a sophomore at Arizona State,
shot the lowest round in NCAA history, a 10-under-par 60. Casey
made up an eight-shot deficit to defeat Stanford's Joel Kribel in
the final round; bettered the previous NCAA low of 61 (set by
Tiger Woods at the '96 Pac-10s); won his second straight
conference crown; and led the Sun Devils to their fifth straight
title. He also broke Byron Nelson's Broadmoor course record of
62, which Nelson had set while winning the '45 Seattle Open.
Casey made 11 birdies, including six in a row from the 3rd
through 8th holes. At the 485-yard par-5 18th, he reached the
green in two, but his 50-foot eagle putt grazed the edge of the
cup. After draining the three-foot comebacker, he had a 15-under
265 (67-66-72-60) for a two-shot victory over Kribel, while the
Sun Devils finished 21 strokes ahead of UCLA. "I really didn't
think too much while it was happening," Casey says. "It was just
Tour Stats Upgrade
INFORMATION OVERLOAD IN '00
Playing the 90th and final hole of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
earlier this year, Steve Pate needed a birdie to force a playoff
with the leader, David Duval. When Pate's second shot on the
543-yard par-5 18th at PGA West landed in a greenside bunker,
ABC announcer Bob Rosburg said, "He's at least even money to get
up and down."
In the future Rosburg won't have to guess when he gives the odds
on a player's ability to execute a particular shot. Next season
the Tour plans to unveil a detailed database that will provide
historical statistics about every shot a player might attempt
during a tournament. Want to know Tom Lehman's chances of
hitting the fairway off the tee on a par-5? No problem. Billy
Ray Brown's percentage of greens hit in regulation with his
five-iron? Done. Steve Elkington's success rate on five-foot
putts for par? For birdie? Easy.
"We've been well aware of how in-depth statistics have helped
baseball grow interest," says Steve Evans, the Tour's director
of information systems. "Our goal is to have a rich database
that will give an accurate, compelling and instantaneous
perspective on any situation."
The Tour, which now tracks 87 stats, would increase that number
to more than 300 if the new system proves feasible--and that's a
big if. Evans admits that he's not sure how things will shake
out until prototypes are tested this fall. If all goes well,
data will be gathered by tournament volunteers equipped with a
touchscreen computer, which will use global positioning
satellites to pinpoint yardages and locations, and a laser range
finder to measure putts. Each group of pros will be assigned at
least one volunteer. After the info is beamed to a production
truck, it will update the database and be made available to TV
announcers, to spectators at on-course kiosks and, later, to
fans at home on pgatour.com.
Simple, right? Not exactly. The Tour does not want to hire
additional on-site personnel, so the existing 15-person
tournament operations staff, which handles such things as the
scoring system, will be called upon to do the extra work. That
might fly, but will a single volunteer be able to get yardage
and club selection for player A in the left rough and for player
B 80 yards down the fairway in the right rough? Is it realistic
to strap a bunch of high-tech gadgetry on an unpaid volunteer
and expect no snafus?
The Tour is well aware of the complexity of the undertaking but
says it is committed to seeing it through. "We're being cautious
about planning until we realize exactly what we need," says
Evans. "This is an ambitious project." --Rick Lipsey
The Pick of Putters
CLUB OFFERS PAYNE RELIEF
Payne Stewart was sizing up a difficult downhill shot from just
off the green at Harbour Town during the recent MCI Classic when
his caddie, Mike Hicks, said he didn't see how Stewart could
stop the ball any closer than six feet from the hole. Stewart
grinned and replied, "So what?"
Six-footers haven't fazed Stewart since he began using a SeeMore
putter earlier this year. So far he has a victory (Pebble Beach)
and two seconds (Honda Classic, MCI) with the new club. He's
ranked third in putts per green hit in regulation (1.718),
seventh in putts per round (27.92) and fifth on the money list.
"I'm holing more long putts than ever," Stewart says.
The SeeMore is a hot club on Tour because it helps players with
their alignment. "These guys out here are the best players in
the world, and even they can't aim, trust me," says Jim Weeks, a
former club pro who invented the SeeMore. The secret to Weeks's
putter is the red dot behind the shaft on the heel of the
clubhead. The dot is flanked by two white lines perpendicular to
a white aiming line. After getting the aiming line pointed along
the line of the putt, you adjust the angle of the shaft so that
when you look down at the ball, the shaft blocks out the red dot
but not the two lines on either side. When that happens, you're
Stewart, Tony Sills and Laura Baugh use the putter in
competition. Sandy Lyle and Vijay Singh have tried it out in
tournaments, and a number of players are practicing with it.
Greg Norman asked for one. Bruce Fleisher practices with a
SeeMore, as do Harrison Frazar, Jerry Kelly and Steve Pate.
"It takes a little work," says Weeks. "I like to say it's the
putter you can't use like the one you have now. When Payne first
tried it, he said he felt like he had to move his hands back six
inches at address. I said, 'Well, that's because you do.'"
--Gary Van Sickle
Gibson's Masters Flyover
RARE AIR AT AUGUSTA
Kelly Gibson has never played in the Masters, but last month he
at least got a good look at it. Flying from New Orleans to
Columbia, S.C.--in a Cessna owned by his caddie, "Rocking" Ron
Senac, a former Air Force fighter pilot--to play in a pro-am
hosted by Hootie and the Blowfish, Gibson passed over Augusta
National on Masters Sunday.
"We were at 7,500 feet, and Ron dropped all the way down to
2,000 feet, turned the plane on its side and went right up a
fairway," Gibson said. "He was yelling at me, 'There's Hogan's
bridge. There's Number 12.' I'm sitting there hanging on to the
co-pilot's steering wheel, scared to look. I'm thinking, Oh,
this is great. The only time I get to see Augusta National, and
we're going to crash into the clubhouse. I was still sweating
when we landed 10 minutes later. It was pretty neat, though. You
could see the flowers and the people. It all happened in less
than 15 seconds."
That's better than nothing. After they buzzed Augusta, Senac
told Gibson, "That might be the closest you ever get to the back
nine on Sunday." --G.V.S.
What do these players have in common?
--Jose Maria Olazabal
They're the last three to win a PGA Tour event without being a
Tour member. Olazabal won the '99 Masters, Westwood the '98
Entergy Classic and Woods the '96 Las Vegas Invitational.
Will Bruce Fleisher break the Senior tour record of nine wins in
--Based on 352 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: Should rules officials investigate alleged
infractions reported by TV viewers and spectators? To vote, go
Scott Dunlap, a 35-year-old who played the Nike tour in '98, has
made the biggest move up the World Ranking so far this year,
while Tom Kite has sunk like a stone. Here are the players in
the top 100 last year or this year who have made the biggest
jumps since the end of '98.
'98 RANK '99
Scott Dunlap 209 96 +113
David Howell 162 93 +69
Rocco Mediate 116 53 +63
Frank Lickliter 112 66 +46
Alex Cejka 124 87 +38
Tom Kite 87 *201 -114
M. Bradley 63 120 -57
P. Stankowski 77 128 -51
Trevor Dodds 90 139 -49
Nick Faldo 90 104 -47
*Rankings below 200 unavailable.
Kelly Dillon, Naperville, Ill.
Dillon, a freshman at Bradley, won medalist honors to lead the
Braves to their first Missouri Valley Conference title, at
WeaverRidge Golf Club in Peoria. Dillon, who finished at 17-over
233, shot a women's course-record 69 in the first round, when
she aced the 146-yard 4th hole with a seven-iron.
Ross Smith, South Bend
Smith, 43, the director of golf at South Bend Country Club, won
the 1999 Teacher of the Year award for the Indiana PGA section.
Smith, who paired with Barry Pearce to win the Indiana PGA team
championship in 1990 and '94, is in his fifth season as coach of
the Notre Dame women's team.
Bob Stanger, Durham, N.C.
Stanger, 40, a software designer, won his second North Carolina
mid-amateur title with an eight-under 208 (71-66-71) at
Kannapolis Country Club. Stanger, a co-medalist at the '82 U.S.
Amateur--he lost to Jim Hallet 2 and 1 in the third round--and
the '93 Carolinas Amateur champ, won the mid-am by four shots.