In October the golfing world sadly lost another of its modern-day poets, in Renton Laidlaw – after the passing of Peter Alliss just a few months ago.
For the most part, even the greatest sport commentators live a life of anonymity, as they are often heard, but rarely ever seen. Commentary is a true art form, which is often reserved only for a sport’s most devoted and eloquent aficionados.
The most recent spine-tingling example of this was Peter Drury’s reintroduction of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’: ‘Wreathed in red, restored to this great gallery of the game, a walking work of art. Vintage beyond valuation, beyond forgery or imitation; 18 years since that trembling teenager of touch and tease first tip-toed on to this storied stage. Now in his immaculate maturity, CR7 reunited.’
Draped in the poetic silkiness of a true connoisseur, this tribute to one of the all-time greatest athletes was delivered in a way which (almost) brought a tear to even this Liverpool fan’s eye. Listening to the likes of Drury, Alliss and Laidlaw is a far cry from the PGA Tour’s NBC in-studio golf commentators, as they bumble their way through some of the most trivial dribble on TV – ah yes, cue the mute button.
Some of these commentators remind me of that one playing partner whom we’ve all had to endure at some point in our golfing lives – you know, the guy who chooses to state the obvious, but only after the fact. Miss a putt left? ‘Pulled it.’ Under-club an approach, which proceeds to plug in the front bunker? ‘Should have hit one more club.’ I laugh because it’s true – but I am also quietly hoping that if any of them are reading this, it closes that chapter in their golfing lives. Former cricketer Ian Chappell perfectly captured what we all wish for in a great commentator when he said: ‘The art of commentary isn’t telling people what they are seeing.’
When it comes to golf commentators, very few of the game’s pundits compare to Laidlaw and Alliss. Each had their own style, yet it was always underpinned with a touch of humour throughout their seamless and captivating tales during a live broadcast on those Sunday afternoons.
‘Pinero has missed the putt. I wonder what he is thinking in Spanish’ – Laidlaw
‘This is the 12th, the green is like a plateau with the top shaved off’ – Laidlaw
‘It is not a matter of life and death. It is not that important. But it is a reflection of life, and so the game is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, impaled on a conundrum’ – Alliss
‘One good thing about rain in Scotland. Most of it ends up as Scotch’ – Alliss
Cheers to you both and thank you for all of those unforgettable afternoons spent watching and listening to the live coverage of a final round with the volume turned up.
– This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!