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11D AGO

Q and A with Mike Tirico, part 2: NBC host dishes on passion for golf, favorite courses, playing with Michael Phelps

6 Min Read

Olympic Golf

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    Written by Helen Ross @Helen_PGATOUR

    Editor’s note: As has been the case every Olympics since 2016, Mike Tirico will be the host of NBC’s primetime coverage in Paris this summer. And while he admits that he’s still learning the nuances of one of the newest additions to the rota – break, or break dancing – he can speak with authority on nearly every other sport we’ll see at the Games in August. Golf is one of his passions – both as a player and an announcer – and he took time out from his broadcasting duties at THE PLAYERS Championship in March for this two-part Q and A. To check out part 1, read here.

    (Note: This Q and A has been edited lightly for length and clarity.)

    IGF: When did you start playing golf?

    Mike Tirico: So, I played very few times and very briefly as a kid with my mom's brother, my uncle in Queens, New York, at Clearview Golf Club – a New York City public facility. This was in my high school days. Didn't grow up with country club access or a lot of people in the family playing golf. He took me to play a couple of other places over time, but really it was after college in Syracuse that I started playing more and more and fell in love with the game. I'm bitten by the bug. I'm frustrated at what I like to call the “lifetime experiment.” The more I'm around it and the more instruction I hear, listen to and see, my game gets worse.

    I have this terrible, terrible lot in life that I understand a lot of nuance and I just thirst to hear more nuance of the golf swing, putting stroke, all of this stuff, and I just don't have the athletic ability to match it. It just frustrates the heck out of me. But there might be nothing more enjoyable to me than just to get out for an hour to putt and chip, hit golf balls. That's a solitude that your phone stays off. You're not on a computer, you're working at an individual task, and I can really get lost in it. I love the game.

    I wish my schedule allowed me to play a little bit more. In an Olympic year like this year, it's a good time to get me on the golf course if you want to make money, but the year after an Olympic year, when I have more time off in the spring and summer and I get to play golf, that's a good time to invite me to member-guests … because then I'll be putting time into my game and playing a little bit more.

    Our daughter played high school golf and made it to the state finals as an individual, and that was the most nervous parent moment of my life watching her play golf. But it is a thrill to have a game that our whole family can play together and enjoy, and here we are in our 50s and still trying to get better at it and still think that we are one really good lesson away from shaving a couple off the handicap.

    I love it. I have a taste for it, yearn to be around it. … I just love the familiar faces, familiar places and a sport that really gave me my start as a network sportscaster. I was doing ESPN studio stuff, but my first job as the No. 1 guy in something was 1997 taking over golf at ABC. And that was the door opening for me to have many more opportunities and eternally appreciative to the Curtis Stranges, the Judy Rankins, the Andy Norths of the world who helped me get off to a good start. And without question, that's a part of my love for golf and my enthusiasm for the sport and being around it, too.


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    IGF: Do you ever play golf with any Olympians from other sports?

    Tirico: That's a good question. We have missed, and we keep trying to do this, trying to play golf with Michael Phelps. He has the bug. He's out all the time. … We have missed each other, but he would be the one that we have this golf date we've been trying to schedule. And he's not as good a golfer as he is a swimmer – he is the best swimmer of all time – and the golf thing, he's pretty damn good. I'd rather have him as my partner than as my opponent.

    IGF: Where do you play most of your golf?

    Tirico: I play most of my golf in Michigan. We're fortunate enough to be at a Donald Ross course in Ann Arbor, Barton Hills (Country Club). We also to get to get out to Oakland Hills from time to time as well. So that's the area we live in and get to enjoy. I should also add Northern Michigan, as there's a really cool course – the Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, Michigan. So, I get to enjoy the delight of summer golf in northern Michigan, where you can still play a hole at 9 o'clock at night in July and August. Especially in the summer, I love to just walk, get out there, carry my bag over my shoulders and walk and take just the peaceful couple hours, even enjoy nine quick holes early in the morning or late in an evening in the summer. … If I'm not with the family, then everybody knows exactly where I am in the summer: I'm out there probably on the seventh hole looking for my ball after I've missed the fairway to the right again.

    IGF: Does your daughter ever beat you?

    Tirico: Oh, my god, she does. Yes. Absolutely. Proudly. So, I gave up on that a long time ago. … She has long since passed that thrill of beating dad. It's good. Most times we don't keep score, but if we are, I kind of peek over at the scorecards, like, alright, now I've got to start grinding here, these last two or three holes and I can beat her. Which it's just so much fun, man. It's what you love about it.

    I really feel blessed that golf came into my life and gave me the opportunity to be around all of these incredible people. We just left the Arnold Palmer Invitational and having the chance to not just meet and interview – but to have Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus come up and say hello to you. They know your name and they talk to you about what you do for a living, and that spans all the way to the Will Zalatorises of the world. … I really do feel blessed to have had a really cool seat in some way for the last 27 years, having covered golf every year as part of my life.

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