Golf Channel Dream Began With Twist of Fate

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2005, 5:00 pm
The dream was hatched in early 1991, when cable entrepreneur Joseph Gibbs began his quest to launch a 24-hour golf network. But it was a quest that required fate to step in to keep the dream alive.
That moment of fate came during the 1990 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., when Gibbs made his home available to one of the pros playing in the tournament. The pro originally scheduled had to cancel, but who else but The King, himself ' Arnold Palmer ' took his place. The two struck up a friendship and Gibbs, who wasnt much into golf at the time, began to understand golfers love and respect for their game and the admiration the public had for Palmer.
Getting to know Arnold is when I realized how great this game is, Gibbs said. Walking with him on the golf course, I saw how much the people loved him and loved being around him. That impressed and overwhelmed me.
Several months later, Gibbs inspiration at Shoal Creek sparked the idea of The Golf Channel.
Gibbs, who already had built two successful cable companies, as well as a cellular communications business, began by commissioning several surveys to get a sense for what kind of demand existed for such a network. The results were encouraging, but Gibbs knew his lack of experience and connections within the golf industry would hamper any notions of getting his idea off the ground. So, in October 91 he contacted Palmer.
Arnold is a pretty conservative guy. Hes not the type to act on impulse, but this was an opportunity that had promise and possibilities, Gibbs said.
Palmer liked the idea, but initially had some reservations. Filling 24 hours of golf seemed like a lot to accomplish, but there are so many aspects to the game and the more I thought about it, the more I could see it working, he said. Palmer eventually invested in the project and became co-founder. International Management Group (IMG), which for years had helped build Palmers brand image, helped develop the business plan and also invested in the project.
Gibbs and Palmer publicly announced their plans to launch The Golf Channel in February 93 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, but rising hopes were nearly dashed later that year. The networks original seed money had vanished by locking up options on rights to the various tours and other business concerns ' options that were soon to expire ' and the partners were left with no other available reserves. I was six months on the streets trying to raise money we needed to make it a go and prospects werent looking too good, said Gibbs. He explained that cable operators were more worried about their own businesses, much less investing in a new one.
But Gibbs was able to raise enough money soon thereafter to extend all the options for another year and, subsequently, struck gold in May 94 when six of the countrys largest multisytem operators joined the project, which included current owner, Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. Their investment not only infused necessary capital to keep the business going, it brought with it one of the most important keys to a fledgling cable networks success ' distribution.
At the time, those six companies reached nearly 12 million homes. It was then that Gibbs felt confident enough that he could at least break even and sustain the network through expected losses during its first couple of years.
The Golf Channel teed off on Jan. 17, 1995, at 7 p.m. ET with the United States first fully digital production facility, an experienced management team, a lineup of well-known talent and a varied programming schedule. In its first year, The Golf Channel televised 23 domestic tournaments and 41 European and Australian events.
Since then, the network has been the gold standard for other niche cable start-ups and has become the home for golf on television. The Golf Channel can now be seen in more than 90 million homes in no fewer than 25 countries, reaching nearly 90 percent of the worlds golfers.
With more than 115 tournaments telecasts each year, The Golf Channel televises more live golf than all the other networks combined. Innovative, compelling and authentic programming, including news, instruction and original specials and series ' like the award-winning The Big Break ' supplement the programming schedule and keep avid golfers on top of the game.
Other original programming includes Golf Central, a nightly golf news show; Golf Talk, a talk show featuring some of the games biggest names; College Central, a weekly news show covering mens and womens collegiate golf competition; the Sprint Post Game, weekly post-tournament shows featuring news, statistics, interviews and analysis on the weeks competition; Academy Live, a weekly call-in show offering viewers an opportunity to improve their game by consulting with top teaching professionals; The Grey Goose 19th Hole, a lively topic driven series highlighting current issues in the world of golf; Quest for the Card: Inside the Nationwide Tour, an in-depth look at the competition and life of players on the Nationwide Tour; The Golf Channel Academy, a series of half-hour instructional programs; Playing Lessons From the Pros, a series that provides instruction from tour players during their off-day practice rounds; Peter and Friends, a series of roundtable discussions about the world of golf featuring Peter Jacobsen and touring professionals; Whats in the Bag?, a series focusing on golf equipment, accessories and the titans of the industry; and Golf With Style!, a series that showcases the lifestyle of golf around the world. Other programming highlights include celebrity interviews, video tours of the worlds great courses, golf classics and other golf specials and documentaries.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.