Clive Clark received a Christmas card at his La Quinta, California, home last week, wishing him a Merry Christmas and congratulating him on the success of the Dunbarnie Golf Links in Scotland that Clark designed and which opened earlier this year.
The card was from Clark’s old friend and working partner, Peter Alliss, the famed golf commentator who died just days before the card reached Clark.
“For me, he was the greatest broadcaster in sports,” Clark said of his partner on BBC golf coverage for 18 years.
Alliss, a terrific player in his own right but known for the last 40 years as the voice of golf for the BBC and for his work with ABC in this country, died Dec. 5 at the age of 89. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Alliss was also a member of eight Ryder Cup teams for Great Britain and Ireland.
While Clark, a long-time Palm Springs-area resident, worked side by side with Alliss for 18 years doing commentary at tournaments, their paths had crossed years before that.
“Of course, I knew him as a player,” Clark said. “As a teenage amateur, I had a low enough handicap and won enough tournaments on the amateur circuit that I was invited into a few professional tournaments. I played a practice round or two with Peter, which was great.”
Clark was impressed enough with Alliss that when Clark would finish his own round, he’d walk back out to the course to follow Alliss on his final few holes. Clark remembers Alliss had a compact, punchy swing that produced what Clark said was the ball fizzing off of Alliss’ clubface.
Slowly, Alliss transitioned to broadcasting, even as he continued to play events throughout the 1960s. Henry Longhurst was the BBC’s top golf commentator, but when Longhurst was gone, Alliss took over.
“They were rather different in their style,” Clark said. “People say oh, he learned off Henry, and I’m sure he did learn from Henry to a degree, but he was different in style. Peter talks more, which he can do, because he was extremely interesting to listen to.”
Golf with a sense of humor
It was Alliss’ laidback style that set him apart from other commentators, his ability to think off the cuff, his ability to observe something at a tournament other than a golf shot and quickly get back to the game.
Clark recalled the third round of the 2002 British Open, when Tiger Woods was nearly blown off the Muirfield course by strong, cold winds that hit the championship in the middle of the round.
“Peter’s comment was Tiger’s on his way to not breaking 80, which is like going to see Pavarotti with laryngitis.”
Clark said Alliss was also a delight to be around off the course, with his own style that was comical at times, but never overly serious about anything, whether it was practicing golf shots or giving a speech at a corporate outing without actually having a speech in mind before he started talking. In golf clinics with Clark, Alliss would say he was going to hit some easy 7-irons, then surprise Clark by telling the crowd Clark would now hit some 2-irons, a notoriously tough club, and make sure the balls were on a difficult downhill lie.
Alliss also would tell the story with a smile of the greatest shot he saw in golf, not a wood he hit into the par-5 18th on a single match of the 1959 Ryder Cup at Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, but the shot his opponent, Jay Hebert, hit into a lake on the same hole.
“He made you smile. He made you chuckle,” Clark said. “That’s not easy in golf.”
Larry Bohannan is Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun golf writer, part of the USA Today Network. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Desert Sun.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/18/peter-alliss-clive-clark-the-best/