The Magic of Television
By Jim McNaney
Advancements in technology in the last 100 years almost seem miraculous. Automobiles, airplanes, bullet trains, the Internet, cell phones (heck phones at all) and yes golf equipment have all either changed dramatically or been invented in the last century. Arguably the invention that has had the greatest impact on the day-to-day lives of most Americans is the television.
Like every industry on the planet, the golf industry realized early on that the way to get into more peoples homes was through the television. The history of golf on television is an impressive list of award winning productions. Whether it was the Shells Wonderful World of Golf in the 60’s, the iconic January views of the Bing Crosby Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the 70’s or the PGA Tour’s boom in the 80’s and 90’s, golf seemed to always be on the forefront of sports television production.
Then in 1995, Joe Gibbs and Arnold Palmer decided to try something completely new; a 24-hour golf-only channel. Orginally named The Golf Channel; the idea was to satisfy the insatiable appetites of those of us that are truly obsessed with golf. Not only would this new network take advantage of another new fledgling invention, cable TV, but also it would provide advertisers a direct link to their consumers.
In the beginning, the network relied on instructional shows, a nightly newscast, and infomercials and yes even re-ran the old Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. As the network grew, it purchased the rights to live golf events. Now Golf Channel covers events all over the world LIVE from just about every professional tour on the planet.
A few years ago, the network decided to take a chance on an event that had never really garnered much attention even by the craziest of golf nuts. They decided to televise live the NCAA Men’s and Women’s National Championships.
I can’t tell you if the broadcasts are profitable or not, and frankly, I don’t really care because right in front of my eyes, a miracle happened all because of the NCAA Women’s Nation Championship.
It was late May and I was helping my mother close up her winter home in southern Georgia and getting her ready to transition to her summer home in Chicago. We had decided to take a break from packing things up and watch a little television.
My mother likes to keep up to date with the happenings of her hometown of Chicago all winter long and usually spends mornings listening to WGN Radio. Earlier that morning, she had heard the Northwestern University Women’s team was in the championship match later that day. Since both the men’s and women’s championships were held in Chicago this year, it was a big enough sports story to be talked about on WGN even without the hometown Wildcats in the mix.
This is when it happened…as we sat down and I grabbed the remote I heard my mom say, “Why don’t you turn on the girls college golf if it’s on.” I guess the stunned look on my face was very obvious as she said, “I’m serious.”
Why I call this a miracle is because my mother has not watched golf on television since my father passed away a little more than 4 years ago. While my father was alive, most Saturday and Sundays were spent sitting together watching every golf event. That was a great way for them to connect. They each had their favorites. My mom’s is Davis Love III to this day…mostly because he is from Sea Island and that is right next to her beloved Jekyll Island winter home. It was a simple pleasure but it was a way for the two of them to spend quality time together in their later years.
I’ll never know why she decided to watch that day. Maybe it was because it was Northwestern. Maybe it was because it was played in Chicago. The reason doesn’t matter but because Golf Channel took a risk to televise an event that generally is only followed by alumni and parents, I got to see my mom enjoy watching golf again. She got to have her old routine back and I got to see her smile.
Thank you Golf Channel.