News & Opinion

Dark days for Walker Cup and TV

HOYLAKE, England – Golf has thrived during the past 50 years, not just because of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy.

The game has flourished and matured because of television.

Every week of the year, golf is on TV, with events from all over the world, at levels from professional to amateur, women and men, showcasing the game.

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It was a sight to be seen, but not on live TV as Akshay Bhatia celebrates on the shoulders of Stewart Hagestad while their American teammates soak up a comeback victory Sunday at the Walker Cup.

© USGA/JOHN MUMMERT
It was a sight to be seen, but not on live TV as Akshay Bhatia celebrates on the shoulders of Stewart Hagestad while their American teammates soak up a comeback victory Sunday at the Walker Cup.

So, when the 47th Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool was not televised during the past weekend and relegated to highlight shows on BBC, Golf Channel and Sky, the absence likely made any golf fan pause.

How could the Walker Cup, golf’s pre-eminent amateur event, not be on live TV?

Two years ago at Los Angeles Country Club, the U.S. defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 19-7. Americans Cameron Champ and Collin Morikawa, both budding PGA Tour winners, offered a look into the future of professional golf.

That has been the case in past Walker Cups. Future Tour winners Nicklaus, Scott Simpson, Hal Sutton, Corey Pavin, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Justin Leonard, Woods, Matt Kuchar, Lucas Glover, Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau are just some of the Americans who played in the biennial matches since 1959.

Of course, not all of those matches were on TV. Dating to the first full TV coverage, NBC’s telecast in 1997 at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., the event has been exposed to more and more golf fans.

When the USGA negotiated its contract with Fox in 2013, the Walker Cup was assured that starting with the 2017 event at Los Angeles Country Club that the matches would be televised when played in the U.S. every four years. But this year, with the Walker Cup being played overseas, the event was not televised. The reason: Money.

The cost of producing the broadcast apparently was too much for the R&A to bear. The overseas telecast was not negotiated into the NBC deal that was announced in 2015.

The Walker Cup potentially won’t be televised from overseas in 2023, when the event returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews for the first time since 1975, when Wake Forest teammates Curtis Strange and Jay Haas led the Americans to a 15½-8½ victory.

Is there anything more offensive in golf than not showing a tournament that is hosted on the Old Course?

Sources say the R&A may take a harder look at televising future Walker Cups. I suggest that golf fans offer a helping hand by establishing a GoFundMe page to broadcast the 2023 Walker Cup.

Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that and the R&A recognizes that the event deserves live coverage, no matter the cost. As stewards of the game everywhere except the U.S. and Mexico, the R&A has a responsibility.

Last weekend, the R&A made a mistake and shirked that responsibility because of money. Let’s hope that the organization learned its lesson.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli


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