Let’s face it…watching golf on television is boring. Ok, maybe that is too much of a blanket statement. But you must admit, many times, outside the majors, we have talking heads talking over the action trying to entertain the viewer. They go on about the minutiae of the golf swing (many times incorrectly), the pressure the players are under, the difficult pin positions, etc. It is enough to put you to sleep watching the event.
As we approach this week’s Open Championship, among the things that deserve celebrating is one person who is no longer a part of US broadcasts. Peter Alliss was a mainstay of ABC and ESPN major championship golf coverage for many years. The longtime BBC broadcaster moonlighted on the US networks while working the tournaments for the ‘Beebs’.
Simply put, Peter Alliss was the Voice of Golf. He had the perfect combination of knowledge, timing and wit during a broadcast that made watching golf and listening to the commentary enjoyable. His love of the game came across to the viewer and he had an innate ability to weave stories relative to the current event into the broadcast. Unlike now, I did not want to hit the mute button during the broadcast if Peter was talking.
He did not shy away from criticizing the players when he thought they were wrong. When Rory McIlroy proclaimed he didn't like weather being a factor in playing major championships, Alliss suggested 'perhaps he should go play snooker.' When Tiger Woods was changing swing and short game coaches in the late 2000's, Alliss wondered, 'Why on earth would the greatest striker & chipper of the ball change his method? It's like Pavarotti saying, 'I'm fed up with being a tenor, I'm going to sing baritone."
He has also been a long-time advocate for simplifying the rules of golf. Why? 'They are complicated and draconian. Also, most breaches are out of ignorance. If you asked golf professionals to take a rules test, only 5% percent would pass.'
His wit and humor are legendary. When the moment called for levity, he almost always had the right words:
On Rickie Fowler when he wore his cap over his ears-
‘Oliver Cromwell used to wear a hat just like that when he battled the cavaliers…came right down over the ears.’
On Jordan Speith after holing a birdie putt-
'What a dandy of a putt...and he's single I do believe...what a catch!'
On the weather in Scotland-
'One good thing about the rain in Scotland...it eventually all becomes scotch.
On Carol Vordeman (Host of Countdown in UK...think of her as a UK version of Vanna White)-
'Ah Carol Vordeman...I like her...I was watching her the other day and I got aroused....not bad...that's seven letters, not bad for someone who left school when they were 15.'
Peter indeed brought a little bit of everything to his broadcasts, which is why it made him the best. I think he may be doing some BBC radio commentary this week. You will find me muting the TV and turning up the radio if that is the case.