Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner to Make Golf Films Debut as Co-Producer, Writer of Summer of ‘76
As temperatures rise this July with The Open returning to Royal Birkdale, Golf Channel today announced that its next Golf Films’ project will dive into one of the coolest periods in the sport’s history, the 1970s, with a one-hour special, Summer of ’76, premiering on Tuesday, July 18 at 9 p.m. ET following Golf Central Live From The Open.
In July of 1976, America celebrated it’s Bicentennial. At the same time, golf descended on a sweltering Royal Birkdale along England’s West Coast, where two of the game’s transcendent figures collided. Johnny Miller was the California golden boy, at one time appearing to be the heir apparent to Jack Nicklaus atop the sport. A fiery and charismatic Spaniard with an uncanny feel for the game, Seve Ballesteros was just 19-years-old, but well on his way to becoming the Arnold Palmer of European golf. In the end, Miller won the Open, Ballesteros won the hearts of fans, but the ultimate winner was professional golf.
“Winning The Open in ‘76 was one of fondest moments of my career,” said Miller. “The course was totally burnt out. I hit 1-iron off the tee and don’t remember missing one fairway the whole week with it, which was my key to winning. I hadn’t heard about Seve at all, but that changed quickly when he led after the first round. He hit driver everywhere, slashing it out of places like Arnie used to do. I knew that he was going to be great, no doubt about it.”
Through interviews with Miller, Tom Watson, Peter Alliss, and dozens of others, Summer of ’76 recalls the excitement of seeing Ballesteros for the first time, and the brilliance summoned by Miller en route to winning the Claret Jug. Ballesteros’ week commenced a true emergence of European stars across the sport over the next decade, joined by the likes of Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam all factoring in major championships and collectively sparking a European resurgence in the Ryder Cup. The film also pops with the groovy style of the ‘70s when golf was looser, with stiff shots on and off the course, and when the sport was still in its relative television infancy.
In addition, the film will touch upon relevant cultural and societal trends in the mid-70s, in an era when people grew their hair and wore bellbottoms and cranked up The Steve Miller Band, Marvin Gaye and Queen on eight tracks inside their Pontiac Firebirds. The principals whimsically remember the music they listened to, cars they drove, clothes they wore and the equipment they played, which required a level of artistry that many feel has been lost in the modern game. Summer of ’76 also tackles the question that has long been debated: how would the best of that era stack up against the best of today?
“Maybe as I get older I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, but even Jack Nicklaus, who came of age in the brush cut 1950s, let his hair down in the 70s,” said Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner, who will serve as a co-producer and writer of the film. “Some of my all-time favorite players were either at the height of their power or just ascending: Jack, Gary Player, Johnny, Tom Watson and of course, Seve. And that era produced so many tough guys with homemade swings, like Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Lanny Wadkins and Hubert Green. That Open of ’76 at Birkdale is a perfect jumping off point to look at one of the coolest, most stylish periods in golf, the 1970s.”
Summer of ‘76 is being produced by Golf Films, led by 13-time Emmy Award-winning coordinating producer Israel DeHerrera, who has served as the lead producer for several critically acclaimed projects, including the three-part Arnie(2014) and Jack (2017) films on Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. In addition to DeHerrera and Lerner, who makes his debut as a co-producer for a Golf Films’ project, James Ponti also will serve as a co-producer for Summer of ’76. Other award-winning projects produced by Golf Films include the Emmy-nominated Payne, on the late Payne Stewart; Arnie & Me, a follow-up, fourth installment of Arnie; ’86, a chronicle of Nicklaus’ final major championship win at the 1986 Masters that aired to coincide with the 30th anniversary of his iconic win; and Ben Crenshaw: A Walk Through Augusta, on the two-time Masters champion, and his special relationship with the tournament.