News & Opinion

How old is too old to talk about golf on TV?

CBS cuts septuagenarians McCord, Kostis from TV team, citing ‘stale’ broadcasts

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, told Gary McCord that the network’s golf coverage was getting “stale, and we want to go in a different direction.”

So, McManus excised two of what seemed to be the most integral parts of CBS golf, getting rid of McCord and Peter Kostis. Both were at the end of their respective contracts this year, and the network chose not to renew.

2013 The Northern Trust Open -Second Round
Gary McCord: ‘I’ve been called a lot of things, but “stale” is not one of them.’

“I am very surprised at what happened,” McCord told Morning Read. “Totally unexpected. I’ve been called a lot of things, but ‘stale’ is not one of them.”

It’s not irrelevant to note that McCord, 71, and Kostis, 72, were the two senior members of the CBS golf announce team. In this case, “stale” might be a euphemism for “old,” and therefore an excuse to practice a little passive-aggressive ageism. You can be in your 70s and be president, but apparently it’s too many years to talk about golf on television.

McCord joined CBS when then-executive producer Frank Chirkinian took a chance and put him in a tower in 1986 at age 37 after a largely unsuccessful 13-year PGA Tour playing career. Kostis was hired at CBS in 1992.

McCord has manned the 16th-hole tower for most of that time. He made his mark in TV with his own trademark brand of off-center humor while at the same time offering his unique insight to the professional game as only someone who tried to make a living at golf can do.

McCord was famously banned from the network’s coverage of the Masters in 1994 when Augusta National officials took offense to McCord’s reference to “body bags” behind the 17th green and that the green had been “bikini-waxed” to get it so fast. It had been said that in recent years, McCord was welcome to return to the Masters but chose not to work.

2014 The Waste Management Phoenix Open : Final Round
Peter Kostis, whose 27-year career at CBS has ended, intends to return to his golf-teaching roots.

Kostis was an on-course reporter, starting in a similar role at the 1989 Ryder Cup for USA Network. Kostis had made his name as a high-profile teacher and was best known on CBS for breaking down the swings of PGA Tour players, winning an Emmy for his slow-motion swing analyses.

It appears to be a move to get younger on CBS, although 18th-hole announcer and anchor Jim Nantz, who has been doing golf at CBS for 30 years, is 60. Nantz has children ages 5 and 3 from a second marriage, which can only be assumed makes age 60 younger than the actual number in the eyes of McManus.

Nantz’s partner in the 18th-hole tower is lead analyst Nick Faldo, 62, a six-time major champion. Other CBS announcers include former British Open winner Ian Baker-Finch, an Australian who is 59. Dottie Pepper, 54 and a former LPGA major winner, is CBS’ other on-course reporter. Amanda Balionis, 31, has done post-round interviews for CBS since 2017.

Bill Macatee, 63, might get a larger role. He is on the Masters and PGA Championship telecasts and takes over in the 18th-hole tower when Nantz takes time off.

CBS most likely will offer a full contract to Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo, who had done the Masters and PGA Championship and a handful of events for CBS since 2015. Nobilo, 59, a New Zealander, is one of the most insightful analysts in the business, and besides, CBS is fond of accents in its golf announcers.

It’s not clear whether CBS might raid Golf Channel or the other networks, but NBC/Golf Channel appears to have too many on-course reporters, which might make Jim “Bones” Mackay ripe for CBS to pick off. Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s former longtime caddie, already has gained high marks for his ability to get inside the heads of players and caddies.

Speaking of Mickelson, CBS would be smart to make a run at him, putting Mickelson in a tower for a handful of events in 2020 as he nears 50. Mickelson is about to fall out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which would narrow his options for the bigger events, including the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Mickelson would appear to be a natural on TV, and no one believes that he will play on the Champions Tour when he becomes eligible in June.

McManus surely has people in mind to replace McCord and Kostis, and talks are certainly ongoing. That’s because CBS’ next telecast is the Farmers Insurance Open in January. The network’s contract with the PGA Tour ends in 2021, and CBS will be among multiple networks bidding for future rights.

As for McCord’s and Kostis’ futures, they aren’t revealing much.

“It will most definitely include going back to my teaching roots, completely unfiltered, in some form or fashion [maybe a book], and I'm really excited about that,” Kostis told Sports Business Journal. “As well, there are numerous new opportunities for covering golf that are very interesting.”

McCord was equally cryptic about his plans but signed off by saying, “Thanks for letting me in your TV room for 34 years. Adios.”

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