January 16, 2015 - 7:14pm
Posted by:
Doug Ferguson
john.holmes's picture
Golf Channel
Associated Press
The Golf Channel now has nearly 700 employees and will televise 189 events from the major tours around the world this year.

HONOLULU (AP) — Twenty years ago on Saturday, Arnold Palmer flipped a ceremonial switch to launch a risky venture that cynics saw as an easy punch line.

 

The Golf Channel?

 

Tennis magazine mocked the idea as "24 hours of chubby guys in bad clothes speaking in jargon that only they understand." Rick Reilly, in his column for Sports Illustrated, suggested programming that included "Body by Jack," a workout session with Jack Nicklaus in which he "takes you through a 30-minute routine you can do without getting out of the cart."

 

Even the players had their doubts.

 

"I'm always stunned that there's enough golf stuff for 24 hours a day," Paul Goydos said. "I would have thought, 'Do we really need a Golf Channel? Is there enough viewership? Enough material?' I thought it would be a tough row to hoe, in my opinion. They've proven me wrong."

 

Players today can't imagine life without Golf Channel.

 

"That's all I watch," Jason Day said. "I say I don't watch much golf, but I do. Pretty much every day I'm watching Golf Channel."

 

The network was launched on Jan. 17, 1995, and could be seen in about 10,000 homes. It began as a premium fee ($6.95) and changed to part of a basic cable package by the end of the year, helping it to reach 1.4 million homes.

 

Twenty years later, Golf Channel can be seen in roughly 120 million homes in 83 countries and is broadcast in 12 languages around the world. Its offices in Orlando, Florida, have more than quadrupled to 160,000 square feet.

 

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And there is no shortage of programming.

 

The first tournament it broadcast was the Dubai Desert Classic, which Fred Couples won in 1995. On its 20-year anniversary, Golf Channel will have four hours of live coverage from Rory McIlroy's season debut in Abu Dhabi; seven hours of taped coverage and four hours of live coverage from the Sony Open (including a pre-game show), along with its popular "Morning Drive" and a news show.

 

"It's a big deal," Palmer said Friday morning from his office at Bay Hill. "Everybody is excited and happy with the channel and all the stuff going on. Who would ever thought 20 years ago ... all the things that have happened with Golf Channel?"

 

Palmer was a co-founder with TV mogul Joe Gibbs, who plans to make an appearance on Golf Channel on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary. Golf Channel began 18 months before Tiger Woods turned pro, so it was blessed with good timing. Comcast eventually bought out the network, and then acquired NBC Universal, which gave Golf Channel even greater resources and branding capabilities.

 

The most significant moment in its 20 years was when the PGA Tour signed it to a 15-year deal in 2006 that gave Golf Channel rights to Thursday and Friday rounds from the PGA Tour, along with full tournament coverage for the opening three events and the tournaments in the fall. Golf Channel previously had the European Tour and other global events, along with the other three U.S. tours (seniors, women and what is now Web.com).

 

But there was another turning point equally important in the infancy of the network, a time when even Palmer had his doubts about the future. The question was whether it was prudent for Palmer and his investors to get out and cut their losses.

 

"We were questioning what we were doing and the viability of what was happening," Palmer said. "And they said, 'How do you feel?' I said, 'Let me say this to you: If I didn't try to hit it through the trees a few times, none of us would be here.'"

 

The quote is now on a wall at Golf Channel headquarters, a daily reminder that when you hitch up your pants and go for broke, the reward can be immense.

 

"Even though we're now part of a big company, you still want the spirit of how this place was founded to be a living, breathing part of what makes it tick," Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said. "That culture and everything Arnold represented, that should be part of it."

 

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McCarley said Golf Channel now is the most affluent network of those devoted to a sport, mainly because of the demographic of those watching.

 

Davis Love III smiled at the coincidence that a network co-founded by Palmer would benefit from the arrival of Woods, the two players who in different ways made golf appealing to the masses.

 

"It's make a big difference for our sport," Love said.

 

Golf Channel has kept the newspaper clippings from two decades ago that either panned the idea of a golf channel or predicted failure.

 

"That was an easy column to write," McCarley said. "It was the first of its kind. Now every sport has its own network."

 

Geoff Ogilvy of Australia was among the skeptics. He remembers when he first came over to America to play in events like the Western Amateur and the Porter Cup. Golf Channel was just getting started.

 

"Coming from Australia, we had four channels and we didn't have any cable," Ogilvy said. "I thought this was cool, but no chance anyone was going to watch. They had all these infomercials, like Orlimar Trimetal. Remember that? So I was like, 'Who's going to watch this?' But in the last 10 years when they got the tour deal, I think it really kicked on. Now it's a legitimate channel — really legitimate.

 

"ESPN was the same," he said. "I remember when they started, they showed Aussie Rules football because it was the only thing they could afford. ESPN only got there when they started showing real sport, and Golf Channel is probably the same. It's a big channel now. It's a big part of our tour."

 

How far has Golf Channel come?

 

There are sheer numbers. Golf Channel had the rights to 23 domestic tournaments when it began (mostly the LPGA and Nike tours) and 41 events from Europe, South Africa and Australia. This year, it will televise 189 events from the major tours around the world. It began with 180 employees and now has nearly 700; McCarley said 13 employees have been there from the start.

 

And there are intangibles. On the day before it celebrated its 20-year anniversary, Palmer watched his grandson, Sam Saunders, compete on the PGA Tour on a network that he helped to start.

 

Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

 

Golf Channel, lampooned at creation, celebrates 20 years on air
January 16, 2015 - 7:59am
Michael.Benzie's picture
Rory McIlroy
European Tour
Rory McIlroy celebrates his hole-in-one with playing partner Rickie Fowler.

One day after Tom Lewis and Miguel Angel Jimenez each made a hole-in-one in the Abu Dhabi Championship, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy knocked one in of his own.

RELATED: January's most creative reader golf course photos | Share your hole in one

Here it is, McIlroy's very first ace in European Tour competition:

That wasn't only McIlroy's first hole-in-one on the European Tour, but also his first as a professional.

It happened on the 177-yard, par-3 15th hole and he used a 9-iron. The ace helped McIlroy to a 6-under 66. At 11-under par, he enters the weekend trailing leader Martin Kaymer by two shots. 

 

Watch: Rory's first professional ace
Rory McIlroy
European Tour via Twitter
Rory McIlroy's curls were in fine form during his appearance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship back in 2009.
We've all had bad hair days, and most of us have endured some seriously questionable hairstyles over the years. That's one way world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is just like the rest of us.
 
If you've been following McIlroy's career over the past several years, you might remember that he sported quite a mop of curls when he first turned pro. He's tamed them since those early days, but our friends at the European Tour dug up this photo of him from his first appearance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship back in 2009.
 
 
Yikes! That is, and I apologize in advance, a hair-raising photo.
 
For the record, McIlroy tied for fifth back in 1999 after rounds of 66-69-71-65 got him into the clubhouse at 17-under 271. He's in position to match or better than finish this week, as he opened with a 67 on Thursday that put him three shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.
 
 
Rory McIlroy had hair-raising debut in Abu Dhabi
January 15, 2015 - 10:21am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rory McIlroy
Twitter
Just when it looked like Rory McIlroy was in trouble early in his first round Thursday, he went ahead and hit an incredible recovery shot to set up an unlikely birdie.

Rory McIlroy began his 2015 European Tour campaign Thursday in the Abu Dhabi Championship, where he fired a 5-under 67 in the first round that left him just three shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.

A little rust would be understandable for McIlroy, who hasn't played competitively since November.

RELATED: Miguel Angel Jimenez scores hole-in-one in Round 1 at Abu Dhabi

His tee shot on the third hole (his 12th of the day) wound up in a horrible spot -- in the rough just above the lip of a bunker.

That made for an awkward stance for McIlroy's approach with one foot in the bunker and one foot out.

But, just like you'd expect from the world's No. 1 player and winner of the last two major championships played, McIlroy expertly pulled off the approach:

Yep, just a ho-hum birdie for McIlroy.

How good was that?

Rory McIlroy pulls off remarkable shot from tough lie
January 15, 2015 - 9:06am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Miguel Angel Jimenez
YouTube
On Thursday, in the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Miguel Angel Jimenez made a hole-in-one on the 173-yard, par-3 15th hole.

Does anyone in professional golf have more fun on the course -- or in life -- than Miguel Angel Jimenez?

RELATED: The most interesting stretching routine in golf

On Thursday, in the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Jimenez made a hole-in-one on the 173-yard, par-3 15th hole.

You'll especially love the celebratory dance.

Check it out:

Looks like drinks in the clubhouse are on Jimenez...

... Like that wasn't going to happen anyway.

The ace was part of an "interesting" back nine for the most interesting man in golf, who shot an even-par 72 and trails leader Martin Kaymer by eight. 

Miguel Angel Jimenez makes an ace in Abu Dhabi
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy celebrates after he and Rickie Fowler win the Yas Island Mangrove Challenge.

ABU DHABI -- Four of the world's top 10 squeezed in an unexpected spot of short game practice in a unique 'pitch n' paddle' challenge on Yas Island ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship 10-year milestone.

Firing biodegradable 'fish food' balls from a jetty against a backdrop of mangroves between the ninth and 18th holes of Yas Links Abu Dhabi, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler paired up to take on Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS: McIlroy lists his season goals on the back of his boarding pass

The session saw the two teams race to be the first to hit two floating targets attached to kayaks steered by their own caddies.

Watch the video here:

 

 

Stenson and Rose started strong, hitting the first 30 yard target in just three shots whilst McIlroy and Fowler struggled. However, panic struck for the dynamic duo -- and their caddie -- after world number one McIlroy evened up the score. Fowler sealed the deal by introducing his 'skip shot' -- skimming the ball across the water's surface to strike the final 60 yard target to take the title.

"We sort of struggled at the start," said McIlroy. "Once we finally hit the target at the first yardage then momentum was on our side."

Fowler added -- "We fed a lot of fish that's for sure!"

THE ROAD TO AUGUSTA: Rory McIlroy begins his Masters journey in Abu Dhabi

"It's a bit of a shock to the system to be honest," joked Rose. "We're going to have to go away and regroup and hopefully this won't affect us in the next Ryder Cup."

Tomorrow's Championship will see a host of the world's best challenging for the coveted Falcon Trophy, including four of top 10 (McIlroy, Stenson, Rose and Fowler), South African Ernie Els, three-time Falcon Trophy winner Martin Kaymer, Ryder Cup star Victor Dubuisson and Abu Dhabi's global golf ambassador Matteo Manassero, along with a host of past champions.

This article was from Khaleej Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. 

 

McIlroy, Fowler win "pitch and paddle" golf challenge at Abu Dhabi