SBD/January 19, 2011/People and Pop Culture
Catching Up With Golf Channel "Morning Drive" Co-Host Gary Williams
Published January 19, 2011
Favorite part about life in Florida: The fact that I can call home (northern New Jersey) at night, and my wife's telling me about weather advisories, and I'm worried about whether it's going to be 65 or 70.
Handicap: Four. There is a little bit of a residue of a game there, but it comes and goes.
Dream golf partner: BEN CRENSHAW. Having loved the game virtually my whole life, I gravitated toward him. Not only the fact that he is one of the absolute brilliant golf designers, but also his appreciation, his great unbelievable depth of golf history knowledge, and just to talk to him about the game.
Quick thoughts on...
Erik Kuselias: Depth.
Tiger Woods: Coming around the bend. I expect him to have a big year.
Q: Is there a particular player you see emerging this year?
Williams: I am wildly high on RICKIE FOWLER. I think he's got an unbelievable head on his shoulders. I think he's got the absolute perfect demeanor. I am extremely high on him having a really big year and being that next American to become really productive and win a lot over the next 10 years.
Q: What are some of the major storylines for the tour this year?
Williams: There are two things to me that are really going to be great this year. You're going to have what I think is going to be some fluidity with the world number one ranking. ... The second thing is the real battle between the European Tour and the PGA Tour as far as these fields. Abu Dhabi this week is an outrageously superior field in strength of world rankings compared to the (Bob Hope Classic). The Hope has great traditions but if you look at who they have at Abu Dhabi it's unbelievable. I think Europe has more momentum as a tour than it has ever had. They've got the number one player in the world (LEE WESTWOOD), they have GRAEME MCDOWELL, they have RORY MCILROY, they have IAN POULTER, they have MARTIN KAYMER. Right now they have as much mojo as I think they've ever had, and the battle is really on. PHIL MICKELSON is even starting his year at Abu Dhabi on the European Tour and not playing at the Hope, and he's from Southern California.
Q: What were some of the reasons behind the decision to take this opportunity with Golf Channel?
Williams: One, the idea that this is as much live programming for an individual show on the Golf Channel that they've ever made a commitment to in the network's history. We're on 10 live hours a week, and then you couple that with the re-airing of the show on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, that's four hours out of every day for the show. There's an enormous amount of resources and commitment being put into this program. The second thing was that they wanted to add range to the program and make it a golf-centric show but with the ability to talk about other content. And also the idea that this show has a more casual feel, and that we have a chance to really humanize the people in the game, the people that cover the game and the people that play the game. ... And then finally, the Comcast component is very, very real. I've watched and had a real interest in the network since it was founded, because at the time I was in the golf industry. I've always said to myself, "I wonder if there ever will be a day that I'll be interested in working for the network." They have taken an enormous leap with respect to the way the network presents itself, the graphic packages, the talent, the content. All of that combined it just felt like the timing couldn't be better.
Q: Are there any guidelines in terms of how much golf should be discussed during the show?
Williams: I think right now what we have is kind of a moving line with respect to the percentage of content golf and non-golf. I think what we're going to do is let that line move until we feel like we've hit the right mark. We're going to do that by virtue of the feedback we get from people who are very loyal to the network, and those people that may be new that we hope to attract to it. We want to find the right balance. But what we want to do is that even with every non-golf topic, find a thread to weave it back to golf. ... I think what we want to do is feel like we are satisfying that loyal audience.
Q: How has working with Kuselias gone so far?
Williams: Having listened to him and watched him for so long, he's got an unbelievable depth of knowledge in so many areas. Despite not having the golf background that I do, he digs in deep into content and research, and his mind never stops thinking about ways to attack issues and talk about things. The most enjoyable thing that I like to do is to have a really good debate or conversation about something with somebody who really challenges my mind. He does that every single day. He does it in ways that are totally spontaneous. We want it to be a very fluid two hours. Erik doesn't say to me, "Hey, I'm going to ask you this," and "I'm going to tee you up on that." We don't do that. That to me is not good radio, not good television. I want to react to him, and he wants to react to me. I'm totally stimulated by talking with him. I totally respect the way he goes about doing what he does, and I'm enthralled by the discussions that we get to have every day.
Q: What has the transition into TV been like for you so far?
Williams: It's obviously different. There's a structure to television that radio simply doesn't have. But the one thing that we're going to do, and we want to do in time, is to create a show where you feel like it's a look-in show. We don't want to play to camera, we don't have prompters. There's not as much rigidity to this form of television that you would have with most studio shows. The biggest thing is that you have to be here in make-up at 5:30 for a 7:30 show. ... The idea that I have to worry about making sure my hair was in place before I went on the air, that's new. ... Our daily meetings start at 4:00am sharp. Before I was able to kind of meander into my day. When we went on the air at 6, you had to have the right energy. But television you can't hide appearance, and you can't hide the body language of being engaged.