2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Morning Drive and LPGA News

The ability to follow the PGA Merchandise show from the comfort of your own home is amazing!  I am here in the cold Northeast (seven degrees this morning) and seeing updates on Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and more.

The Golf Channel Morning Drive show and the LPGA both started tweeting early in the morning that big announcements were coming.  Given I am a fan of both, I was curious to see what was “big” to each organization.

Morning Drive Announcement

The Morning Drive show is expanding to seven days a week.  Great!  They are adding to the cast.  Most of co-anchor additions make sense because they have been on the show or are members of the golf channel.  The one odd addition is Ahmad Rashad. He is an NBC broadcast “star” so I get that but what does he know about golf?  I guess we will find out soon.

The other big reveal was the new set of the show.  Below is a photo of the old set.

Morning Drive Set

TV Screen Shot of Holly Sonders on Morning Drive Set. Click image to Enlarge.

Now one thing I always liked about the current set is that it seemed “cozy” and had lots of golf memorabilia and “chotskies” on the set.  I also think the intimate feel of the set added to the relaxed style of the co-anchors.  It never felt like a “formal” news show like the evening recap show, Golf Central.

The Golf Channel provided a photo gallery of the new set.  If you click on the photo below it will take you to a cool time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

The new set and staff is a clear indication of the success of the show.  I will keep an open mind but I hope what I loved most about the show does not get lost in the new high-gloss set.

LPGA Announcement

In a previous post, The LPGA’s Marketing Challenge, I noted some concerns about the tour’s perception in the American market.  Basically, the LPGA is a global tour but the American market needs a new star which I felt was Stacy Lewis.  I am happy to see that the tour is now promoting Stacy Lewis.  Stacy certainly made it easier for them by winning Player of the Year.  I am happy to see the management at the LPGA finally embracing Stacy Lewis as a tour star.

The LPGA also deserves credit for figuring out a way to capitalize on the statement they have been emphasizing all year that they are a “global tour.”  I was thrilled with the announcement of the “International Crown” by the LPGA.  It is a new match play tournament that will debut in 2014.  The tournament will be 8 countries vying for the crown. I also like the promotional video.

And to my point earlier about promoting Stacy Lewis, there is a nice video of Stacy talking about the new tournament.

I like the International Crown for two reasons.  First, the LPGA did not just follow the PGA tour and create a “Presidents Cup” for the ladies.  The Presidents Cup is the USA against the rest of the world (minus Europe).  Second, it ties nicely to the fact that golf will be part of the Olympics in 2016 and what do we all love to do during the Olympics? Cheer for our country.  The fact fans love to cheer for their country should make the International Crown a big hit among golf fans; and hopefully, bring new fans to the LPGA.


Earl Woods gets my vote for founder of “the youth movement” in golf

The Golf Channel Morning Drive Show has a daily poll question and one question was on a topic I have written about often — young golfers.  The question was posed because a 14-year-old amateur golfer from China, Guan Tianlang, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and a spot in the 2013 Masters.

Here is the Morning Drive poll question tweeted by Lauren Thompson Twitter coversatin with Lauren Thompson on Morning Drive Poll QuestionI was pleased to get a direct message back from Lauren ThompsonImage of Twitter DM from Lauren Thompson

As you can see from my response to Lauren Thompson I did not select any of the four options.  Yes, I think all (coaching, equipment, global exposure and technology) are important factors but that does not speak to the underlying support system that allows kids to pursue a sport with such intensity at such young ages.

The only way a child can achieve such great success at such a young age is because the parents support it.  There will always be the debate as to whether or not the child truly “wanted” to “live and breathe” golf or if the parents really wanted it for the child.  But either way, the steps the parents must take to create the opportunity is the basis for it all.

Tiger Woods is the most famous child prodigy that ever played the game.  Yes, Tiger has proven his place in history as one of the best golfers ever.  However, I truly believe Earl Woods, Tiger’s father, was the mastermind behind the Tiger brand that exists today.  After all, Earl Woods not only taught his son golf at a young age but also was savvy enough to get his son “exposure” at a very young age.  If you have not seen it, below is the video of 2-year-old Tiger on the Mike Douglas show.

After Tiger, the next young phenom to come along was in women’s golf – Michelle Wie.  At the age of eleven Wei was the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship.  Wie’s career has not been as stellar as predicted; although she has reaped the financial benefit and fame sponsors like Nike deliver.  In recent years Wie’s poor play has been blamed on her focus on college but now that she is out of school she is still struggling to find her game.  Only time will tell if Wie will become a truly great golfer.  If she does not become a champion golfer then Wei’s rise and fall may become a cautionary tale of burnout or peaking too soon.

In 2012, we have seen a flurry of young golfers making news:

  1. Andy Zhang, a 14-year-old amateur golfer (also Chinese but living in Florida) made history as the youngest player in the US Open.
  2. Lydia Ko, a 15-year-old from New Zealand (originally from South Korea) made history winning the Canadian Open.  Ko is the youngest player to win a LPGA event.
  3. Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old Californian, became a sensation at the 2012 US Open when he took the lead (over Tiger) for a short period of time.
  4. Lexi Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2011 at age 16 which triggered Mike Whan, LPGA Commissioner, to waive the 18-year-old age requirement for turning pro and gave Thompson (age 17) her PGA tour card for 2012.
  5. Guan Tianlang, 14-year-old amateur golfer from China, made history as the youngest winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and will make history in 2013 as the youngest golfer to ever play in the Masters.

So is this a good thing for the sport or not?  Some will say “yes” because it will bring a younger audience to the game and hopefully grow the game for the future.  Some will say “no” for reasons such as it is not good for the child (i.e. the pressure, the travel, the risk of injuries at a young age).  Whatever your opinion there is one thing that is hard to argue and that is “the cat — or should I say, Tiger — is out of the bag” and there is no turning back now.


Men of the Golf Channel

A few months ago I wrote about the women of the golf channel and it has been a very popular post.  I’m an equal opportunity writer so today I am focusing on the men of the Golf Channel.  I won’t be highlighting all of them (obviously there are a lot more male announcers, analysts, and TV personalities than women on the golf channel); so visit the golf channel website if you are looking for bios on Nike Faldo, Frank Nobilo, or other big name golfers now working for the Golf Channel.  Here are five of my favorite men of the Golf Channel.

Gary Williams, Morning Drive Host(1) Gary Williams – Anyone that has read my blog knows I am a fan of the Morning Drive show.  Williams has always been my favorite host for two reasons.  First, he has the perfect on-air style for an early morning show.  He has passion for what he does but he delivers it with a laid-back style.  In other words you would never call him a “morning shock jock.”

The second reason I like Williams is because he let’s his guest’s talk.  Yes, he has opinions and shares his views; but he also gives plenty of air time to other people joining him on the show.  As of May, Williams has been hosting without Erik Kuselias and frankly it is a better show.  I hope the Golf Channel executives keep Gary Williams and Holly Saunders as the mainstay personalities; while bringing on interesting co-hosts to “sit across” from Williams to discuss the days events in golf.

Photo of David Feherty (2) David Feherty — Given that I love Gary Williams because he is not a “shock jock,” it might surprise people that I like David Feherty.  His humor can sometimes be a bit overboard but I do love his on-course commentary and his show, Feherty.

I don’t really consider him a “shock jock” (although Ernie Els called him that in a Golf.com article).  He pokes fun at golfers and he gets away with it because he is “one of them” and he is also very self-deprecating.  It seems that most golfers take his humor in-stride and expect some good-natured teasing from Feherty.

On the other hand, Feherty does have a serious side.  On his show, he gave a heart-felt thank you to Tom Watson on the help Tom gave him at a difficult time in his life.  He also does wonderful interviews with other big personalities who love the game of golf (e.g. President Clinton, Donald Trump).

Photo of Tom Abbott

(3) Tom Abbott — Most folks that watch the golf channel these days will recognize Abbott as a co-host of the reality golf show, The Big Break.

Abbot does a great job on The Big Break but I really enjoy listening to Abbot’s commentary during LPGA tournament coverage.  I will admit that I do like his English accent but what I really enjoy is his enthusiasm for what he is witnessing on the course. It really adds to the viewing experience.

Photo of Jerry Foltz

(4) Jerry Foltz – Foltz is another on-course reporter that I enjoy when watching the LPGA on the golf channel.  He also does other golf tours (as does Tom Abbot).

I became an even bigger fan of Foltz when he co-hosted Morning Drive with Gary Williams.  If the golf channel executives feel they must put another permanent co-host on the show, I would encourage them to give the job to Jerry Foltz.

The reason I like Foltz is that he has a good sense of humor and the chemistry between him and the rest of the cast; especially Gary Williams, is great.  Foltz and Williams give each other a bit of a ribbing (e.g. like brothers) and it can be very funny.  Foltz has also hosted the show when Williams is on vacation; and like Williams, his personal style is great for a morning show.

Photo of Jason Sobel

(5) Jason Sobel – Sobel is technically not a “TV personality” on the Golf Channel. He is a Senior writer on GolfChannel.com but often appears on The Grey Goose 19th-hole as a panel expert and on Morning Drive as a guest analyst.

But the reason I really love Jason Sobel is because of his tweets. I’m not the only one that enjoys his 140-character commentary — Sobel has over 41,000 followers. Some might call him the “king of twitter for the golf channel,” but Feherty might want that crown given he has over 138,000 followers.  I would argue that folks are following Feherty for outrageous comic relief.  If you follow Sobel, you get clever, often funny, informative golf tweets.

It was tough to pick my top 5 because there are other men of the golf channel I really enjoy and provide excellent commentary; including Brandle Chamblee, Tripp Isenhour, and Charlie Rymer.  I have not listed any of the golf instructors on the Golf Channel (that’s a topic for another blog post) but if you want to check out the top shows you should watch School of Golf with Martin Hall and The Golf Fix with Michael Breed.

Don’t see your favorite Golf Channel guy listed?  Leave a comment on who you like and why.