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McCord Finds More Fame as a Broadcaster

February 20, 1988|Dave Distel

Group No. 47 in the first two rounds of the Shearson Lehman Hutton Andy Williams Open included three rather distinct individuals.

One was short and blond, a cherubic choirboy in cleats. A look at the PGA Tour Book would reveal that this player, Lennie Clements, is interested in jogging, collecting golf clubs and all sports.

Another was taller and older, and his slick dark hair gave him the look of a heavy in a prime time soap opera. This fellow, Tom Purtzer, is interested in music and sports, especially auto racing.

The third player had a wild shock of graying hair coming out from under his cap and a mustache with an upward sweep. He had a cocky stride, like a relief pitcher who knows that the game will be over in a second or two. His eyes seemed to range from bemused to bedeviled, depending upon what fate was dealing him from one moment to the next.

The tour book notes that this fellow works as a color analyst for CBS telecasts and, under other interests, lists: "Enjoys spoofing people."

This man was Gary McCord.

This man could be golf's Bob Uecker.

Uecker, of course, is the baseball player turned broadcaster turned celebrity whose stock in trade is spoofing himself and his wonderfully unproductive six years with the few teams that would have him. Excluding pitchers, he is the most famous .200 hitter of all time.

McCord, an Escondido resident, is a golfer turning broadcaster who is rapidly learning that he probably will find more fame and renown on the air than he ever did on the course.

"Probably?" he said, laughing. "Probably? Are you kidding?"

OK, no doubt. He will get--in fact, is getting--more attention with a microphone in hand than he ever got with a golf club.

"It's been phenomenal," he said. "I'm amazed at how many people watch golf. It's unbelievable."

Uecker's baseball career was about as long as a gimme putt when compared to McCord's 16 years of professional golf. But McCord has had to endure the stigma of being very good without being very successful. Indeed, he has never won a tour event. He came the closest with two second-place finishes in the Greater Milwaukee Open, and that's ironic, because Milwaukee was where Uecker was most successful.

The thing about McCord is that he can spoof himself as well as others. He has the capacity to take himself lightly and the game seriously, and that blend will be a recipe for success.

And playing 10 tournaments a year is part of his formula.

"The game from the booth looks very easy," he said. "The longer you're up there, the easier it gets. You start wondering, 'Why did the guy hit that shot?' Or 'Why did the guy hit that club?' "

So there was McCord on the 17th tee at Torrey Pines North, hitting a splendid shot straight at a pin tucked behind the lake on the left side. But a camera would have shown it floating beyond the pin, off the green and down a hill.

Why did he hit that club?

Certainly, McCord was asking that question as he muttered to himself while walking off the tee. And he was remembering the other question a few moments later when his wedge shot came up short of the green in the fringe.

Why did he hit that shot?

"Now," he said, "I vividly remember why the game is so hard. You broadcast six or seven events, and you can get pretty cocky. It's good to go on a sabbatical and come back out here. It reminds you very quickly."

Perhaps, it was suggested, he was getting to the ball and hitting it too quickly.

"In 16 years," he said, "I've made a lot of goofy shots. I've found it's best to get it over with in a hurry."

He laughed.

He shot a 72, which wasn't bad but wasn't good. It certainly did not put him in good position to make the cut, not with the more treacherous South Course ahead on Friday. He improved to a 70 but still missed the cut by one stroke.

"I'm not playing bad," he said, "but I have no clue on my short game and no clue on my putting."

But it's good to be around the guys, telling stories in the locker room and listening to stories in the locker room. His job as a broadcaster is to provide insight on the sport and personalize the players.

"I'm a marketing guy," he said, "and these guys are my product. I have to paint a word picture of these guys."

Truthfully, it's hard to imagine that McCord has to play to be allowed in the locker room. His wit . . . and a wide range of magic tricks . . . have always made him a clubhouse focal point.

Indeed, a little more success on the tour, such as a win once in a while, would have unmasked him as one of the most colorful persons in sports.

As it is, his peers have always known what the public is just starting to find out . . . that Gary McCord is a blue-ribbon character.

Someday, Johnny Carson will say, "They tell me you once played the game."

And McCord will say something Ueckeresque, such as: "Sure did. The highlight of my career was when I sunk a divot at the U.S. Open."

Good ol' Gary, always spoofing someone.

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