Q&A with Damon Hack
Golf Channel personality will be part of diverse broadcast team for APGA Tour’s television debut at Torrey Pines
January 24, 2022
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
- January 24, 2022
- Damon Hack conducts an interview for Golf Channel in 2018 at THE PLAYERS Championship. (Caryn Levy/PGA TOUR)
Progress, not perfection.
Although there’s still a great deal of work to be done, golf continues to make strides in the effort to make the game look more like the rest of the country. The diversity-focused Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour (APGA) has announced that the APGA Farmers Insurance Invitational at Torrey Pines will expand to two rounds this year.
Saturday’s opening round will be contested on Torrey Pines’ North Course, and Sunday’s second round at the South Course will be broadcast live on Golf Channel.
The live broadcast on Golf Channel marks the first-ever televised APGA tournament, another step in what has become an industry-wide effort to further diversify the sport.
A diverse broadcast team will call the third annual event, including Golf Channel personality and “Golf Today” host Damon Hack on play-by-play, former PGA TOUR professional Notah Begay as analyst, and APGA Tour member Doug Smith and host and content creator Jacques Slade as on-course reporters.
The winner of the event will receive a sponsor’s exemption into the Korn Ferry Tour’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, May 5-8, in Nashville, Tennessee.
We caught up with Hack to talk about where we are now.
PGATOUR.COM: You’ll be calling a little slice of history Sunday. What are your thoughts?
DAMON HACK: Yeah, I’m excited. I really love what the APGA Tour is doing and the PGA TOUR and Farmers and Golf Channel to kind of highlight the Tour and the stories and the players, giving them a platform to play on a course that hosts TOUR events and major championships. I think there are a lot of benefits to the players to be on a tough course and get some TV time. These are players who want to win majors and become names in the game, and what better venue for them? They get TV time, and maybe there are business folks who are watching and hear about their stories. When you’re chasing it at that level, any help you can get in terms of sponsorship and folks who want to invest in you early, that can change things and is also what’s great about this event.
PGATOUR.COM: One of the knocks on golf, especially at the highest level, is that it’s so monochromatic. What does it mean that a young person of color can see someone, or more accurately a lot of someones, resembling them playing the game at a high level on TV?
DAMON HACK: I think it’s hugely important just from an inspirational standpoint to see someone that looks like you; it becomes more tangible and relatable. That’s going to be one of the great benefits of this event as well, is this is a game historically that young African Americans haven’t felt that much of a connection to. Of late there’s been a lot of outreach and wonderful gestures, whether it’s charity dollars or programs to address racial justice, to widen the tent in golf and make the game look a little more like America. It’s almost a soulful connection. Maybe you can’t even explain what it’ll mean, a child flipping through the channels and stopping on a beautiful venue like Torrey Pines in the sunshine and some people who look like them. It kind of reminds me of Bubba Watson or Rickie Fowler saying they never even knew their dream was to play golf in the Olympics. Now these kids might say, ‘You know, I never even thought of playing golf or being part of something like this.’ This will only grow those numbers and make the game a little more reflective of America.
PGATOUR.COM: Kamaiu Johnson and Ryan Alford received exemptions into the Farmers Insurance Open, while Tiger Woods announced that Aaron Beverly received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption for The Genesis Invitational. Last year, Willie Mack made two cuts on the PGA TOUR. Despite all that, it feels like we’re just at the start of something. Do you feel that way, too?Kamaiu Johnson at The John Shippen National Invitational in 2021. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DAMON HACK: I think so. I think one of the challenges facing this moment is that folks don’t get satisfied or weary of these discussions. I think it’s important that it’s sustainable and meaningful and long-lasting, and it’s important that golf continues to make efforts to meet African Americans where they live, and I mean that literally and metaphorically as well, with embracing aspects of Black culture and music and different things that will continue to make the game feel less foreign to a segment of society the game is trying to attract.
PGATOUR.COM: You’ve written about being a Black man in America and hosted panels on race and sports. What is it like to watch an NFL game and see “Black Lives Matter” or other such messages against hate on the backs of the players’ helmets?
DAMON HACK: Seeing those gestures at NFL games and NBA games and even here and there on the PGA TOUR with Cam Champ and his shoes or Kirk Triplett and his golf bag, those are important symbols and messages. It keeps the discussion in the forefront of our mind. If you’re watching a playoff game and there’s Najee Harris or T.J. Watt with a message on his helmet – it used to be that they called the NFL the “No Fun League” because you couldn’t alter your uniform and had to keep it all in line with whatever was the message of the day. Keep the shirt tucked in. Don’t have a Sharpie in your sock. I love that the league has encouraged the players to express themselves in this moment when the country is more amenable to listen, to keep these issues kind of top-of-mind even during the games.
PGATOUR.COM: The John Shippen tournament in Detroit, in which the winner got into the Rocket Mortgage Classic, seemed like a cool new thing. Would you like to see more of that, even on a week-to-week basis?
DAMON HACK: I loved that week. I thought it was so cool that it all happened in the same week, much like the Farmers. I just feel like the more that these players have access to the driving ranges, these incredible courses, the players that are competing at the highest level, and the caddies and the TV cameras, for them to be able to rub elbows with Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson – I can’t say enough about that. We’ve seen Justin Thomas put his hand out to Big Mike (Visacki), a guy who wants to make it to the highest level, and you never know what relationships are formed. Even with Aaron Beverly, we had him on “Golf Today” and asked him, ‘Who would you like to play with at the Genesis?’ and he said, ‘Max Homa,’ the defending champion, and my partner, Shane (Bacon) and I said, ‘Wow, great answer.’ Next thing you know, Max hears about it and reaches out and says, ‘Let’s run it. I’ll see you soon.’ So, there you go, a practice round at Riviera. Those connections can have a ripple effect and be really impactful and long-lasting.
PGATOUR.COM: Speaking of the Rocket Mortgage, I was there on-site when Willie Mack III made a par to make the cut on the number, followed by seemingly his whole family wearing Willie Mack T-shirts. It was a cool moment. What’s been your favorite moment of late regarding all this? Maybe it was Aaron Beverly and Homa connecting for a practice round at Riv?
DAMON HACK: Excellent question. That one gave me goosebumps, and so did Willie Mack in Detroit, and the Kamaiu Johnson story, the fact that he can wear sponsors on his clothes and has the backing of corporate America. That’s where I’m like, ‘OK, this is starting to take hold.’ Willie Mack was homeless for a couple years. Kamaiu was kind of a wayward child. Think of where they are now, the opportunities they have. There’s a lot of pressure on these men and women. We rightfully genuflect about Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder, but it’s hard to be a pioneer. The more players feel like they have a sense of belonging and brotherhood, the more it smooths their path and takes some of the pressure off in shooting some of the scores they want to shoot.
PGATOUR.COM: Finally, what do you hope to see going forward?
DAMON HACK: I’d love to see the game continue to embrace these initiatives, these tournaments, these programs, with storytelling and an open mind and acknowledge that, ‘Hey, golf may have been a bit late to the party in terms of integration and social justice, but we’ve got both feet in now with $100 million over 10 years from the PGA TOUR, and great gestures from the USGA and PGA of America and Augusta National and the R&A and LPGA.’ I feel like this is a moment that has become a movement, and that golf wants to be out front in a leadership role.