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Watson, NBC Play Pressure Shots That Golf Doesn't Need

October 14, 1994|LARRY STEWART

As the golf world turns:

The very week we learned that a letter from Tom Watson played a role in getting CBS' Gary McCord bumped off the Masters comes word from NBC that Dick Enberg will replace Jim Lampley in the 18th-hole tower next year.

The announcement was made Thursday in a conference call with reporters, and one of the questions directed at Tommy Roy, NBC's executive producer of sports and coordinating producer of golf, was whether Watson had approved the change.

Both he and Enberg laughed, but neither commented.

So what's the deal with Watson?

The letter he sent to CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian and Masters chairman Jackson Stephens complaining about McCord, circulated among fellow golf pros, was printed in the November issue of Golf Digest.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 15, 1994 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 7 Column 5 Sports Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
TV-Radio--A reference in Friday's editions to Ron Rapoport's book, "A Kind of Grace," was incorrect. The book is not about female sportswriters, but rather a compilation of writings by female sportswriters.

The letter ends: "(McCord) is the Howard Stern of TV golf and you (Chirkinian) should be ashamed, rather than champion his 'irreverent' behavior. Get rid of him, now."

If McCord is the Howard Stern of golf, then Watson has suddenly become the Howard Cosell, an infamous back-stabber.

The really sad part is that Stephens acted on Watson's letter. He got CBS, over Chirkinian's protests, to take McCord off next year's Masters.


Although Golf World magazine had reported that Enberg might replace Lampley, Enberg said he is as surprised as anyone about his new assignment.

A non-golfer, Enberg said his role will be to personalize and humanize the game and that he will leave the analysis to partner Johnny Miller and others.

The others will include Lampley, who will become one of NBC's course reporters.

This is the second major demotion this year for Lampley, who was replaced on "NFL Live" by Greg Gumbel.

To appease Lampley, NBC gave him a new contract, which, among other things, makes him the late-night host for the 1996 Summer Olympics at Atlanta.

Roy explained the change by saying, "I look at this as if I were a head coach and wanted to get both players on the field at the same time. This is not a demotion for Jim, it is a change of roles. I wouldn't try to read too much into this."

However, there have been rumors that the U.S. Golf Assn., which recently awarded the U.S. Open to NBC, was not happy with Lampley and preferred Enberg.

So this could be a Gary McCord situation all over again, with the rights-holder telling the network what announcers are acceptable.

Said Enberg: "My golfing friends say what irritates them the most is an announcer who talks too much. I'll certainly try not to do that."

Lampley isn't exactly known for succinctness. The USGA might prefer a Pat Summerall type, but it shouldn't have a say in who announces any of its events, if indeed that was the case here.


Enberg said the new assignment will mean only that he will have to give up his role as an NBA play-by-play announcer during the regular season. He will be able to keep everything else, and also work NBA playoff games. Gumbel and Tom Hammond will fill the void during the regular season.

Asked if he has ever played golf, Enberg said he tried it in his younger years.

"I didn't have the temperament for it," he said. "People who know me would be surprised at how I acted on the golf course. I think I still own the record of 158 feet for longest nine-iron throw at Balboa Golf Course in the San Fernando Valley."


Add golf: Because of football, we're in the middle of a six-week lull of major golf. The last major competition was the Presidents Cup on CBS on Sept. 17-18, and the next will be the Tour Championship on ABC at the end of the month.

But NBC this weekend offers a made-for-TV golf event, the Skills Challenge, which was taped in Phoenix on Monday. It will be on Saturday after BYU-Notre Dame football and on Sunday after the Raiders-Miami Dolphins.

Included in the field is Chi Chi Rodriguez, who turns out to be the star of the event.

It has been quite a week for Rodriguez. On Monday, the Hilton Corp. gave him a lifetime achievement award and Wednesday he was named grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses parade.

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