ANNOUNCERS BLAZING TRAILS IN THE BOOTH A group of women wearing the #HoodieForGolf is not an uncommon sight at a LPGA Tour event. But this group of five women are not just fans or players or supporters. They’re a group of trailblazers. For the first time in U.S. television history, GOLF Channel will present coverage of a tournament with an all-female announcing team. Cara Banks will lead the coverage’s play-by-play call at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, with Judy Rankin and Paige Mackenzie providing expert analysis in the booth and Karen Stupples and Kay Cockerill walking inside the ropes with the players. “I feel like we have a nice little bond that will never be broken now because we have this, and this is a shared experience,” said Stupples. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for all of us.” Led by long-time LPGA Tour producer Beth Hutter, the five announcers represent countless years of knowledge and hard work, both inside the ropes and inside the booth. Rankin is one of the true trailblazers for any woman working in the sports broadcast industry, having joined ABC Sports in 1984 upon her retirement from active play. “She's really made it possible for all of us to be doing what we're doing today,” Cockerill said of her colleague. “I cannot tell you all the great things that have come about for me because ABC Sports gave me a chance. I worked with an awful lot of really wonderful men who pushed me along, helped me along, all those things. Made me comfortable when I wasn't comfortable at all,” said Rankin, a 26-time Tour winner. “When I look back, and I'm looking back more, and forward is probably not a long story now in my career, I honestly am really pleased to see that women who can do the job and are very capable of doing the job, whether it be women's golf, men's golf, any kind of golf, are well accepted now, and even searched for.” The concept of female voices in sports coverage is not a new one. Phyllis George broke that glass ceiling in 1974 when she joined CBS Sports. In 1981, long-time golf historian Rhonda Glenn was the first woman to anchor ESPN’s SportsCenter, while Beth Mowins became the first woman in 30 years to call a National Football League game in 2017 and remains the only female NFL play-by-play announcer. All-female broadcast teams recently made headlines in the MLB and the NFL, and Dottie Pepper is a regular part of the CBS Sports men’s golf coverage. Women’s voices aren’t going away. And the world of sports is the better for them. “We've seen Jessica Mendoza in baseball, Hannah [Storm] and Andrea Kremer did football via Amazon. A woman who's from the Bay Area just got called to do the Philadelphia 76ers, Kate Scott, and she'd been working her way up through the ranks doing Pac-12. Before that, she was on KMBR sports radio,” said Cockerill, who came to New Jersey fresh off covering the Ryder Cup alongside Banks and Mackenzie. “There's a female voice edging her way into the men's world of sports. It's a novelty at first, I guess, but as more and more women do it, hopefully it'll be more the norm.” Ultimately, it was Rankin, the first to lead the charge, who succinctly summed up the point of this celebration. “I think women will be a fixture in golf, not just women's golf but in golf, from now on.”
MAGUIRE RIDING HIGH AFTER SOLHEIM CUP SUCCESS, CELEBRATIONS She was the only player to play five matches at the Solheim Cup earlier this month and the only player to go undefeated, so naturally Leona Maguire received the reception of a conquering hero upon her return home to Ireland. “I had seen posts on Twitter and Instagram and social media of how excited people were back home,” said Maguire. “But I don't think I fully grasped it.” The second-year LPGA Tour rookie was greeted at Dublin Airport by her dad, Declan. Their first stop was Castletara National School, where he teaches. “All the kids had prepared poems and dances and songs and all of this, so we stopped for that,” Maguire added. “Then I went to bed for a few hours. Dad said there was something [going on] in our local town that evening.” After a brief, albeit much-needed nap following a long travel day from Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, Maguire was the cause for celebration in Ballyconnell, a one stop sign, blinking yellow light kind of town. “You go over the bridge, turn right, and we did a loop around and then back to the [Slieve Russell] golf club where I grew up playing. There is a hotel and they had set up a little stage, so we did some chatting and answered questions, stuff like that, and then we had a little bit of food and music after,” she said. “The response was just incredible. Wasn't expecting anything like that. “Went through my local town in a gold convertible, and my 94-year-old grandmother was in the front waving to everybody. It was fun for me to see her enjoying it so much. It has been a quiet two years for her. She's on Facebook and had fun seeing all the messages from around the world, but for her to see a lot of people she hadn't seen in a while, and everybody sort of congratulating and messaging her was probably one of the most special things for me.” Before venturing back to America for the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, where she made her professional debut in 2018, Maguire also made an appearance on RTE’s The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy. It was a grand party for a mellow star who is the least concerned with recognition for any of her individual accomplishments.
“The Solheim Cup wasn't about me. It was about whatever I could do for the team. Getting a team win, for Beany, the captains, for the rest of my teammates, and then also coming home and for everybody else to enjoy as well, I suppose that is the special thing about Solheim Cup or a Ryder Cup. You're part of something a lot bigger than yourself,” Maguire said. “I kind of knew that at the time, but going home I really felt it. Hopefully it has inspired a younger generation of Irish players who someday want to be on the Solheim Cup or even take part in any sport. I don't really care what sport it is, but I think there is a great buzz around the country right now about sport and women's sport, and I suppose things like the Solheim Cup can only help.” Maguire now turns her attention back to LPGA stroke-play competition after riding the high of the last three weeks. Her most recent appearance was at the AIG Women’s Open, one of seven straight top-15 results. Maguire will look to continue the magic she showcased at the Solheim Cup and consistency she developed before the break, which she deflects all credit to her caddie Dermot Byrne. “He has been a huge help on the bag keeping me calm and making a few better decisions. I think I have just been saving a few more shots around the greens and not giving away silly mistakes,” said Maguire. “I would like to finish off the season as strong as I possibly can. If the season ended today I would still be incredibly happy. “A lot of that momentum from Solheim and off the back of the majors, yeah it would be sort of a cherry on top to finish the year with a win. If I do, great. If not, take the experiences into next year.” MEGHA-WATT STAR RETURNS TO SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC She has what television people love. When the camera light comes on, Megha Ganne, the 17-year-old sponsor invite to this week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, flashes that thousand-watt smile the world first saw during the U.S. Women’s Open. Then she stares straight into the lens like she’s talking to an old friend. Ganne makes you lean forward. She makes you stop and look and return the big smile even if you know she can’t see you. It’s a gift. Lydia Ko had it at 15. Rory McIlroy grew into it in his late 20s. Ganne appears to have been born with it. “The more people the better,” Ganne’s coach Katie Rudolph said. “The more eyes on her, the better she plays. She’s got a little bit of Arnold Palmer in her. She thrives on the crowd and loves that kind of energy. She’s having fun.” It’s Ganne’s second sponsor’s invitation to the ShopRite Classic. Last year, the event didn’t have fans. This year, much of South Jersey is expected to show up. If the pro-am is any indication, the place will be packed. And Ganne will no longer be looked upon as an “oh, isn’t that nice” local high-school kid. She’s a Megha-watt star, low amateur in that U.S. Women’s Open who captured every heart. “She does like to play on a big stage,” Rudolph said on Thursday afternoon. “She says to me, ‘Hey, these people had a lot of choices about what to do today and they chose to come out and watch me play golf. I might as well let them know that I know they’re here.’ That’s such a cool perspective. It’s hard to believe that she’s 17. And we probably shouldn’t forget that she’s 17, either.” How will she handle being a known celebrity in her first professional event since that magical week in San Francisco? It’s anyone’s guess. But if you listen to her, you realize there isn’t much this kid can’t handle. Most 17-year-olds would stumble through a professional interview, filling boilerplate platitudes with “like’s,” “um’s,” “right’s” and “you know’s.” Ganne sounds like she’s done four Oprah specials and been a guest host on Golf Today. “I don't know if I’d call it celebrity,” she said. “But I definitely have a lot more recognition in the golf world. When I go to golf courses, I can't remember the last time I didn't get recognized. But it's nothing but positivity. So, (things in my life have) changed in the best way possible. My classmates don't view me any differently, and my teachers think of me as just another student. So, the high school part, I just feel like everybody else.” It’s only the practice round period in New Jersey. The course isn’t close to full. But Ganne is already signing autographs and posing for pictures. The smile never seems to go away. She made the trip to Wales as an alternate for the U.S. Curtis Cup team and she played on the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams, spending time in the grandstands and galleries at the events afterward. “Having her in the big arena of the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup, she caught the bug and wants more of that in her life,” Rudolph said. “We’re about to see something good.” To read the full story from Steve Eubanks on LPGA.com, visit: https://www.lpga.com/news/2021/megha-watt-star-returns-to-shoprite-lpga-classic