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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | SENIOR PGA NOTEBOOK

Voges Banished to Tower for His Wit and Wisdom

March 10, 2001|STEVE HENSON

Mitch Voges is finding it easier than ever to stay above the competition, but he no longer has a golf club in his hands.

The former U.S. Amateur champion from Simi Valley sits high in a tower behind the 16th hole at Valencia Country Club, providing analysis of the SBC Senior Classic for CNBC.

"I haven't been playing a whole lot," he said. "But I do know where my clubs are. I don't think I'm all done playing, but I'm really enjoying this."

The good-natured Voges is a natural with a microphone, providing relaxed, often witty commentary on the sport he loves.

The SBC event is the sixth this year for the CNBC crew.

"I've had north of 40 players tell me how much they are enjoying the broadcast," Voges said. "That means a lot to me. I never considered what the players are paying attention to because I'm trying to help the guy at home."

As a player, Voges enjoyed a brief, brilliant time in the spotlight. In 1991, he became, at 41, the third-oldest golfer to win the U.S. Amateur and anchored the successful U.S. Walker Cup team.

The following year he teed it up alongside the best players in the world at the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open.

His playing tapered off and by 1994 Voges found himself analyzing golf aloud.

"It took me a while to warm up to [commentating] because it seemed tough that even with the best intentions you can agitate someone," he said. "Even with an innocuous comment, someone can take it wrong. That's awful tough."

His hide has thickened as he gains experience.

This week is especially enjoyable because he is close to home.

"First and foremost I'm a husband and father," Voges said. "That's why I didn't want to play too much years ago. I'm a dad, that's what I do best."

*

Folks with more clout than the players also give Voges and his fellow CNBC announcers feedback.

Ken Murrah, coordinating producer of the Senior Tour coverage, soon realized men in suits he has never met pay close attention.

"My boss is president of CNBC and he has bosses, and they are all big golfers," Murrah said. "Jack Welch, who runs General Electric [CNBC's parent company] is a golfer, more than I knew.

"It's a double-edged sword. It's great to know senior management is dedicated to the production. But the flip side is that everybody has ideas."

*

Isao Aoki was forced to putt with his 3-wood on the last six holes because the head of his putter fell off when he was placing another club in his bag at the 11th hole.

Aoki eagled the four-par 11th, chipping in from the fairway, and the putter broke when he placed his iron back in his bag and it brushed against the putter. The damage was done three holes earlier when he shot a bogie on eight and tomahawked the putter into the ground.

Aoki didn't fare poorly using his wood on the green. He shot par on 12 through 17 and birdied 18 to finish the back nine at 33 after shooting 39 on the front.

*

Bob Duval withdrew from the tournament before the first round began and was replaced by Mike Smith, who shot a 74.

Duval is suffering from a pinched nerve in his neck.

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