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UPDATED: Andy North: Busting The Stereotype Of The Whispering Golf Announcer

As the ESPN analyst prepares to follow Tiger Woods' group during this week's PGA Championship coverage, revisit his approach to commentary in this vintage 2012 Front Row post

ESPN golf analyst Andy North, seen here in 2012, will follow TIger Woods’ group as part of ESPN’s coverage of the 2020 PGA Championship.
(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN golf analyst Andy North, approaching his 30th year with the network, will be an on-course reporter during ESPN and ESPN+’s live coverage of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco starting today. North will walk with Tiger Woods’ group for the first two days.

In this article from Sept. 27, 2012 (see copy below this note), North describes how we does his job – and why he dislikes “whispering” golf announcing. But with the 2020 PGA Championship being played with no fans this year due to the pandemic, North said that will affect his work.

“I think you’ve got a situation where it’s going to be so much easier to move around and get in position and not have to get caught in an area of gallery where you kind of cut from one hole to another,” he says.

“I mean, I suspect it’s going to be so much easier for us old guys that don’t hear very well. Sometimes you don’t hear information or instruction from the truck when you’re in the middle of a roar.

“I think I’m probably going to have to be much more careful how close I get to players because they’re going to be able to hear you, which is usually not the case because there’s enough of an undertone of just people moving that it probably deadens that somewhat. But I think it’s going to be very important to be aware of not speaking loudly when you’re close enough to the players.”

For years, fans have heard golf TV announcers speaking in hushed tones.

Those tones are considerably less hushed when the voice is that of Andy North, now in his 21st year as a golf analyst and on-course reporter for ESPN.

“I hate when the on-course guy whispers,” North said. “You don’t understand what they’re saying because it’s not loud enough and they’re too close.

“I figured out right away that it doesn’t do you any good to be 20 or 30 feet from a guy when he’s hitting a shot because you can’t say anything,” he said. “You need to be up ahead where you can see, have a sense of where they’re going and what kind of shot they need to be playing.”

North will be doing just that on Friday in Chicago as he walks the course at Medinah Country Club, describing play for ESPN as it televises the first day of matches in the 39th Ryder Cup.

When North started with ESPN in 1992, seven years after his second U.S. Open win, he didn’t have any training for his on-course reporter role but developed his own technique. And that included no whispering.

“You’ve walked by their ball, you’ve looked at the yardage, you’ve looked at the lie, you’ve done all that,” he said. “So then to move 100 yards forward, you can actually see it better sometimes and you can talk loud enough that the viewer at home can hear and understand you.”

North’s years of experience as a professional golfer make up the difference of not reporting from within earshot of players hitting in the fairway.

“You know the player, you know what they’re gonna hit,” he said. “You don’t have to be 10 feet from them to know if it’s a four iron. You just know by experience that’s the club they’re going to play.

“If they’re in between a five or a six or a seven [iron], you can tell by the practice swing, usually, or you can see the loft from the club from far enough away.”

Preparation is an important part of North’s job and he arrives at the course many hours before the telecast begins.

“There are days I’ll go out and putt the greens beforehand,” he said. “Look at pins, understand the wind conditions and all that.

“You talk to the players, you watch players warm up on the range, you’ll talk to caddies. You try to get information any place you can, and all it takes is one or two good nuggets that can really turn your show from a good show into a great show.”

ESPN will air 11.5 hours of live play from of the opening matches of the 39th Ryder Cup on Friday, Sept. 28, at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago. The telecast begins at 8 a.m. ET.

Also, Scott Van Pelt will check in from Medinah during the Scott Van Pelt Show (1-4 p.m. on ESPN Radio & ESPNRadio.com), with Ryen Russillo and Adnan Virk in the Bristol, Conn. studios.

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