(Editor’s note: Golf Channel turns 20 years old on Jan. 17. In recognition, we are looking back at golf over the last two decades with a series of articles and photo galleries throughout the week.)
Twenty years ago doesn’t sound like such a long time. Only two little decades. Seems like just yesterday, right? Well, consider these golf-related factoids…
Twenty years ago, the game’s best players were still hitting balata balls with persimmon drivers – and if they opted for a more conservative approach, there was always the trusty 1-iron.
Twenty years ago, Tiger Woods had yet to declare, “Hello, world.” Winning major championships was still but a gleam in the eye of a straw hat-wearing, baggy shirt-clad college kid.
Twenty years ago, an emotional Ben Crenshaw, a mustachioed Corey Pavin and a brawny John Daly were each major champions, while a guy nicknamed Shark won most of the PGA Tour’s major awards.
And then there’s this: Twenty years ago, Golf Channel was born.
If it seems like just yesterday, you can be excused. It’s been a pretty quick two decades.
The brainchild of Joe Gibbs and beneficiary of Arnold Palmer, the network originally branded as “The Golf Channel” was television’s version of a 260-yard carry over water to a small green. In other words, it was the ultimate risk-reward.
With a vision toward becoming the only network to cover all-golf, all the time, the idea was met with skepticism and reservations. The first tournament on its air was the Dubai Desert Classic, won by Fred Couples, whose cool exterior demeanor shrouding unseen anxiety could have served as a metaphor for the channel.
Since then, golf has grown and Golf Channel has grown right alongside it.
The game’s elite players hit it farther than ever before. Tournament purses are bigger than they’ve ever been. And it can be argued that competition at the highest levels has never been stauncher, with fields much deeper than two decades ago.
Throughout this metamorphosis, Golf Channel has covered each of these issues and so many more from every possible angle. You can argue the points that have been made; you can argue the opinions that have been expressed. But any argument against the unparalleled coverage is easily dismissed.
The game of golf has roots all around the globe. It doesn’t belong to anywhere, though. It lives all around us - in major cities and small towns, in lush green pastures and muddy dirt fields.
St. Andrews bills itself as the “Home of Golf” – and rightfully so, as anyone with a slight knowledge of the game’s history will attest. Augusta National offers its most familiar vistas, Pebble Beach its most beautiful.
Just outside the front doors to Golf Channel’s headquarters exists a sign with arrows pointing in the directions of these three iconic locations and so many other recognizable landmarks. It might not mark a starting point or even some central nervous system, but just like the winner of the first tournament on air, it could all serve as a metaphor for the channel.