PGA Championship serves as a homecoming for Amanda Balionis
CBS Sports’ Amanda Balionis is at the forefront of the next generation of golf broadcasters. A member of the CBS Sports team since 2016, Balionis has quickly become a household name as a result of her high-spirited, informative, post-round interviews with the best golfers in the world.
Balionis, 32, of Pittsburgh, got her big break covering the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, following stints with the PGA TOUR, as a reporter; and Callaway Golf, where she served as a digital content host.
“The PGA Championship is like coming home for me, because it’s the place where my journey with CBS began,” said Balionis. “Any time you cover a golf major, it’s special, but there is just something about covering the PGA Championship that’s incomparable.”
One of the signature features of the PGA Championship is the addition of 20 PGA Professionals who qualify each year to compete with what is perennially the strongest field in golf.
“The strength of the field is always top-notch, then you add in PGA Professionals, and it just becomes special,” explained Balionis. “They have finally achieved their lifelong dream of competing in the PGA Championship. I love hearing the stories they have about how they each got to that point, and how their personal lives have changed because of it. I love everything about the PGA Championship. There is never a lack of excitement.”
The 2019 PGA Championship is taking a new place within golf’s major championship rotation—becoming the second of the four events, as it moves from August to May and is played this week at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. The PGA Championship’s landmark move has created newfound excitement for golf fans around the world, as well as Balionis.
“Normally, the story lines of PGA Championship are plentiful,” said Balionis. “In the past, it’s been the last chance of the year for the best players in the world to capture a major win. I’m curious to see with the date changing how this Championship evolves and creates new storylines in the future.”
Balionis also has experience working another major event conducted by the PGA of America, the biennial Ryder Cup, where she worked for PGA.com, and spoke glowingly about the atmosphere it provides.
“There’s just nothing like a Ryder Cup,” said Balionis. “It’s so amazing to watch guys who are so independent all year come together as a team and build comradery in such a short period of time. Without the Ryder Cup, I don’t think the same level of comradery would exist on the PGA TOUR.”
“A sense of community is something that I love about the game of golf, and I think the Ryder Cup emphasizes the sense of community for all involved.”
Balionis’ broadcasting career at CBS has expanded to include football. Like most Pittsburgh natives, Balionis’ is a football fanatic. Accordingly, she achieved another dream earlier this year when she was the first social media reporter for the “NFL on CBS” for the Super Bowl.
“I hope I’ll get to cover more football,” said Balionis. “It was a wild experience, and I can’t put into words how incredible standing on the sidelines during a Super Bowl was.”
Balionis attended Hofstra University, where she studied broadcast journalism. She was encouraged by her professors to seek out various internship experiences within the industry.
“I always knew I wanted to be a broadcast journalist since I was a young girl. I remember watching Bonnie Burstein on the sidelines and envisioning myself in that position. So, it was important that I garnered the experience necessary to figure out which type of media I really wanted to pursue.”
Sports broadcasting is what Balionis eventually chose, because of her lifelong passion for sports. She’s known for her ability to stay informed and engaged when interviewing world-class athletes, and her love of sports is the main reason why.
“I just try to listen to what the players are telling me, so it can remain conversational,” she explains. “I want to ask the questions that if I was a fan at home on the couch that I would want to know the answers to. The players direct our conversations, I just follow along.
“The goal of my coverage is to always get the story of that player’s round. When these guys open up, it’s interesting for us all to hear.”
Easier said than done when you’re interviewing some of the most popular athletes in the world, especially on the spot. When asked if she’s ever nervous to interview the likes of Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, she turns to her homework.
“I just try to overprepare, that’s the motto I live by,” she explained. “If I can be overly prepared, then nothing can really go wrong. Even if I forget my question, I have knowledge and preparation to fall back on. What you don’t see off-camera is me trying to get the full 360-view of each player and their history, as that’s all very important for me to know.”
Even glamourous careers can have highs and lows, yet Balionis has persevered, which has led to some amazing dividends.
“Every day I think about how lucky I am, because I worked so hard in the beginning of my career and had a few lows, where I thought this job would never happen for me,” she said. “There are people who get a big break at first, but that wasn’t me. It made me grateful and appreciative in a whole new way, when I earned this position. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate that I’m here working in my dream job. CBS took a chance on me, and now I’m living my dream.”
Balionis offered a few nuggets of advice for those trying to break into the golf broadcasting industry.
“If you’re passionate about the game, and want it to grow, you should get involved. The game is accessible for everybody, so make sure you do everything you can to set yourself apart. Be the hardest worker in the room, think outside the box, and you will be able to pursue your passion, as I was.”
The PGA Championship will be broadcast live on CBS, TNT and PGA.com, May 16-19. For more information on the PGA Championship, visit PGAChampionship.com.
You can follow @PGAWORKS on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more about pathways into the business of golf.
For more information on careers opportunities with the PGA of America, visit careers.pgahq.com.