For me, though, this years U.S. Open will be about much more than just the winner. And heres why:
In 1995, The Golf Channel debuted on January 17th. That year Ben Crenshaw won the Masters ' I was there. And that year, our national championship visited Long Islands famed Shinnecock Hills for just the third time in history. I was there too.
The fact that Shinnecock has hardly been used to crown a U.S. Open winner is, by itself, a hard fact to swallow. Shinnecock is beautiful. Shinnecock is awesome.
But there was more. For those of us at TGC who went along for the ride, the very fact that we were present and accounted for at Shinnecock and the U.S. Open was a fairytale story. And to say the least, it was an awesome experience.
Businessman Joe Gibbs had a vision. He enlisted help and a magic touch from golfs living legend, Arnold Palmer. Together, they drummed up business at The Golf Channel and it was a cast of many (myself included) who had the responsibility and good opportunity to make it work.
Our job was large and many times overwhelming in those days. The idea of a 24-hour channel devoted to the greatest game and truest sport of them all was brilliant, yet risky. We all knew it. And no matter where we came from, we knew the reward could be larger than the risk.
Then a sportscaster at West Michigan CBS affiliate WWMT-TV, Ill never forget the words from my news director in Michigan when I first announced my decision to head for a career in golf television.
The Gulf Channel? he said. Whats that? I said, No, the Golf Channel, not Gulf Channel. Its in Orlando.
He wished me well, pledged his support, and no doubt shook his head.
Now, nearly 10 years later, the doubters are in disbelief. Early this year, the Golf Channel launched in the United Kingdom, and now has gone where I never dreamed possible ' worldwide!
Thinking back to 1995 once again, I remember Tiger Woods making his amateur trip to Shinnecock Hills. I remember Greg Norman contending. And I remember Corey Pavins great shot and memorable win.
What you need to know is that we (TGC) were finding our way. We didnt have relationships with players. We didnt have the trust of golfs biggest organizations (USGA) and we certainly didnt have a solid place in line with media members whod covered the sport for so long. Add to that the fact that we didnt boast many viewers, or have a right to brag about any loyal following, and many times we wondered if what we were doing would ever find its niche.
The purpose of this weeks column is not to chase down accolades for what we have done. It is to let you know that returning to Shinnecock will bring many of us, whove been at TGC since its inception, back to our roots in this game.
This time around, Corey Pavin will know us. Tiger will respect us. The USGA will provide us with the proper access. And the assembled media will understand that were in this together.
It should be emphasized that theres absolutely NO WAY wed be headed back to Shinnecock for another U.S. Open without the help of two critical partners:
So I leave you with this ' not a prediction on who will win the 2004 U.S. Open as that will come next week during our live shows ' but instead, a few words of thanks.
Thanks to Joe Gibbs, thanks to Arnold Palmer. Thanks to the players. Thanks to the viewers. And thanks to my wife Kimberly, too, who gave me her blessing 10 years ago to take this great job at The Gulf er Golf Channel. Golfs home has been a road well worth traveling. And Im really proud for the chance to be a part of another U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
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