The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, December 19, 2019
Golf media — Interview with Cara Banks — Must-click links in women's golf
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Every week, I usually stalk the Twitter-verse to see the types of conversations taking shape around the golf world. Although what I want to talk about today doesn’t entirely revolve around women’s golf, I still think it’s an incredibly important topic to break down: how the sport of golf is covered in the media. As you are probably aware, the Presidents Cup was last week and the United States mounted a historic comeback to retain the Cup. Many of us learned, as these events unfolded, that some members of the media were throwing shade at each other without directly calling people out.
That tweet will pretty easily get you up to speed. Geoff Shackelford, who writes for Golfweek and is a Contributor for Golf Channel, wrote this somewhat controversial article and called the Barstool Boys (Riggs and Frankie) fanboys. I’ve seen Shackelford write articles like this before where he just has very bold and ‘out there’ opinions and analyses on things. He also tweeted back at Riggs saying, “Good for them! We all have different aspirations and that makes it a great world. I didn’t get into golf writing to film myself getting a fist bump. That’s all.”
A lot of people in the comments are taking Barstool’s side—and I’m definitely one of them. I agree with the points they are making in that they are reaching a new, younger audience through their “fist bump” coverage of golf. They are making golf fun and approachable. I don’t really get behind Barstool’s content overall, to be honest, because I think in many cases they are the bully of social media and take jokes and content too far. (Editor’s note: they also have a deeply problematic history of abusing women online.) However, this mindset that Geoff and others have that golf has to be covered a certain way and played a certain way is incredibly exhausting, so I’m #TeamFrankie and #TeamRiggs for sure.
In my opinion, gone are the days of dry press releases and stories that don’t move the needle in golf. The Barstool boys are moving the needle because they are different and they are far from the status quo. I live for that! I had an amazing conversation with GOLFTV’s Henni Zuel yesterday (podcast episode coming soon) and she made a comment that golf always seems to be 50 years behind. And it is. We’re really behind when it comes to making golf more accessible for people, and I would argue the media plays a really important role in that.
The media has the ability to maybe not change perceptions entirely, but definitely shape them. The media has access to golf in ways that the average person doesn’t, so why not show the best and most fun sides? That’s what Barstool does—and look how successful they’ve been. Not that followers are everything, but Frankie and Riggs have a combined 316,000 + followers on Twitter. Standard golf media doesn’t even come close to that. They do a great job of making golf interesting and engaging people who may not have otherwise cared about golf.
Now… do I think traditional golf media should just go away? Do I think it’s pointless? Absolutely not. I just don’t really understand the point of bashing each other. We need media to come in and shake things up like Barstool does or the interest in golf will decline. We need the younger generation to care about golf or the sport won’t actually grow and evolve. We need the demographics to expand to all people.
Just like Riggs and Frankie are doing their thing for golf, you have to look at other personalities in golf like Henni Zuel, Hally Leadbetter, Cara Banks, Anna Whiteley, Paige Mackenzie, Alexandra O’Laughlin, Tisha Alyn, Nikki B., Michelle Wie and countless others I’m probably unintentionally leaving out—and see the mark they are making, too. I don’t care what anyone says, women covering golf is just as impactful as Barstool’s unique approach to golf content/coverage.
They all have different approaches to covering and talking about the sport, which is part of what I think makes golf media so great. It’s not about arguing which way is the correct way; it’s about embracing the variety in coverage we get today. In this week’s interview with Cara Banks, she was able to provide some unique insight into her time with Michelle Wie during the Solheim Cup—and talks specifically to what makes Wie a strong television personality and why women like her are so important for the sport.
This Week in Women’s Golf
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New episode up on the podcast! Check it out.
Check out Power Plays. Amazing insight on the LPGA if you haven’t read yet!
The final foursome of the decade has been decided.
Zach Wright, Lindsey Weaver juggling a relationship across Korn Ferry, LPGA Tours.
The race for 2020 LPGA Rookie of the Year should be a tight and exciting one!
Drive on for the Future: meet Amy Bockerstette.
The ANA Inspiration announced a new exemption category.
Inbee Park is eager to defend her gold medal at the 2020 Olympics.
Saudi Arabia to host a women’s golf event in 2020.
The PGA TOUR reached a tv rights deal but it’s still unclear about LPGA rights.
Lexi Thompson gives a shoutout to her brother playing on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Hannah Green was named Australia’s best golfer earning the Greg Norman Medal.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Cara Banks
Given that Cara Banks one of other women in the booth with Michelle Wie during the Solheim Cup, I thought it would be fun to get her perspective on what it was like to sit alongside Wie that week. We also dove into what it takes to be a successful television personality, how it all came together having Wie join the team as an analyst and she gives her own veteran-television-host analysis of Wie.
Q: What sort of prep work goes into your coverage of an event like the Solheim Cup?
We are very lucky to have an incredible research team at Golf Channel who provide us with weekly documents full of information for each week’s top tournaments. When a premier event like the Solheim Cup comes about, we get a full binder littered with historical data, detailed notes etc… So that’s always a good starting point. Then I tend to create my own notes combining Golf Channel hand-outs & my own research from online, TV & print. Once Solheim Cup week begins, it’s all about following the stories / press conferences that unfold during the week – and sometimes remembering not to over-prep to allow yourself to react to the live action.
Q: In what ways did you and the team at Golf Channel help Michelle prepare for her role as a guest analyst?
That’s a good question because in a short period of time you have to get an athlete who’s a bonafide star at her craft, learn a new one without wanting to make her too cautious on air / lose any natural enthusiasm. She was a part of our production meeting a couple of hours before going on air, where our producers made a point of not weighing her down with technicalities of the format but more giving her the chance to express opinions / stories on the subject matter that I would then know to tee her up with during the show. The directors also made a point of meeting with Michelle separately just to explain which cameras / people to look at during the show.
Q: From what I’ve read, this came together somewhat late in the game. What is it about Michelle that got her the job?
I think her resume speaks for itself! Not only was she a young phenom of American golf, but she’s a Major Champion and a five-time Solheim Cup player, who had also played on Juli Inkster’s previous two American teams so could provide some great insight into her captaincy, and what it was like to play under her, as she returned to the helm for a third consecutive time.
Q: As a seasoned vet in the industry, what were Michelle’s biggest strengths as an analyst that you noticed when you worked with her?
Considering she was brand-new (as far as I was aware) to live TV, Michelle was really impressive. Never over-awed by the occasion, very honest and real when providing her insight, and calling highlights – when we needed her to explain why certain shots played how they did. She told some great stories about how Juli chose team pairings etc, that no-one else (unless they’d also been on a team) would have been able to offer.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to have someone like Michelle in the booth to tell the story of women’s golf and golf as a whole?
Anytime you can have someone who has been there and done that, you are always going to get a better understanding of what goes into the game, and the position that these women are in. Michelle, who has been playing golf most of her life, can provide analysis on her peers that others may not have access to. We’d all love to still watch Michelle play, but if she’s struggling with injury, this is the next best thing! I”m sure she’ll continue to impress.