On Jan. 17, 1995, the first 24-hour single-sport station launched in a mere 10,000 households, capitalizing on the cable-TV boom.
Golf Channel changed the way golf fans consume the game and paved the way for the eventual creation of the NFL Network as well as MLB, NBA and NHL channels. It has grown from just 15 hours of live programming in the network’s first week—the 1995 Dubai Desert Classic was the first televised event—to more than 100 live hours from three U.S. time zones and five countries this week.
But 2020 has been a year of transition for the network and on Sunday, Golf Channel’s long-running “Morning Drive” TV show came to the end of the road.
The Golf Channel, owned by NBCUniversal, had been based in Orlando since its launch in 1995 but is pulling up stakes.
“As we announced in February, Golf Channel will be moving its media operations primarily to NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, by year-end, while GOLFNOW and GOLFPASS will continue to operate from Orlando,” a Golf Channel spokesman said in a statement to Golfweek in June.
Some are making the move north, but many are not, including some associated with “Morning Drive,” like Gary Williams—who started as a co-host in 2011—Robert Damron and Lauren Thompson.
— Lauren Thompson (@LThompsonGC) December 20, 2020
This shot captures a familiar Morning Drive setting.
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) December 20, 2020
The long-running show eventually featured viewers-turned-crew-members.
CUE: Since Jan. 2011, @GCMorningDrive has started my day from freshman yr. of HS to nearly the end of my college career. I’ll be forever grateful to @GolfChannel, @schultztopia, & @damonhackGC for giving that fan the chance to work alongside the best crew in the business! 1/2 pic.twitter.com/pgRx15Yoct
— The Great Lang! (@LangstonFrazier) December 20, 2020
Golf Channel, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in January, is carried in more than 70 countries and nine languages.
Golfweek‘s Eamon Lynch has been a contributor to the show, and on Saturday, he shared some shots from the studio.
Snapshots from Studio AP, which closes soon with Golf Channel’s Orlando HQ. These were good times with good people. pic.twitter.com/5Ny20c4v1c
— Eamon Lynch (@eamonlynch) December 15, 2020
Paige Mackenzie was a co-host who said via social media she’ll be heading west to Arizona. She will continue to be a part of the Golf Channel studio programs and tournaments. She was an analyst during NBC’s U.S. Women’s Open coverage and is expected to see her role on LPGA broadcasts grow in the future.
Morning Drive will tee off for the last time this weekend. When I joined the MD family I was reminded how wonderful it was to be a part of a team. I am thankful and grateful. A lot of us will head in different directions in 2021 and I wish the best to the greatest GC teammates. pic.twitter.com/j1AfNqYCX8
— Paige Mackenzie (@Paige_Mackenzie) December 19, 2020
Williams’ future plans are unknown—other than that he will not be with the channel any longer—yet he wished those making the move to Connecticut all the best.
I’ve been a fan of @GolfChannel since Mr. Palmer lit the lamp in 1995.I was,am,and will always be exceedingly grateful to have been a part of the https://t.co/CPwPhh3czW those pointed north,do what you do with pride.I’ll wear my GC letterman jacket proudly. pic.twitter.com/nCsKrWWtWB
— Gary Williams (@Garywilliams1Up) December 18, 2020
Damron said he’ll still be on PGA Tour Live broadcasts, but will also be enjoying life.
PGA Tour Live occasionally……otherwise it’s card games and Manhattans at @APBayHill locker room! (Best locker room in America…..but maybe I’m biased).
— Robert Damron (@RobertDDamron) December 17, 2020
Damon Hack will be making the move, and showed his appreciation for Williams (and all his co-workers) while working an LPGA event this weekend.
Down in Naples w @LPGA but also thinking about Studio AP this am. Final weekend of @GCMorningDrive. What a ride it’s been! @Garywilliams1Up revved up the engine nearly a decade ago and the ride has been awesome. Excited for the new adventure and thankful for the bonds created pic.twitter.com/EaLbMpwIvZ
— Damon Hack (@damonhackGC) December 19, 2020
The network recently announced the hiring of Shane Bacon, who will serve as a co-host for a new, live daily show, “Golf Today.” He’ll be joined by Hack as well as Anna Whiteley and Jimmy Roberts.
Golf Channel says “Golf Today” harkens back to network’s first year in 1995, when a show with the same name was the network’s original live tournament pre-game show.
The new “Golf Today” is set to debut on Monday, Jan. 4.
Golfweek’s Adam Schupak and Tim Schmitt contributed to this article.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/20/golf-channel-morning-drive-end-of-the-road/