Travelers Championship Review: For Shepaug High School graduate and former Washington resident Matt Adams, broadcasting from the Traveler’s Championship is like coming home. Story by John Torsiello
For Shepaug High School graduate and former Washington resident Matt Adams, broadcasting from the Traveler’s Championship is like coming home.
From a cub reporter for a local radio station to acclaimed author, commentator and host of the daily Fairways of Life golf talk show on PGA Tour Radio, Adams has tasted success on many levels. Adams’ broadcasting talents have been featured on the BBC, ESPN, Golf Channel, PGA Tour Entertainment, European Tour Productions and Back9Network, among others. His premier literary successes have come from his co-authoring multiple books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Adams also spent a number of years on the manufacturing side of the game, having built and/or designed golf clubs for some of the biggest names in the industry. He is president of Newport National Golf Club in Rhode Island. Adams did his PGA Tour Radio broadcast from The Travelers Championship Thursday and Friday of this week and he had a blast, he told me.
“The Travelers, which was the Greater Hartford Open at the time, was actually the first tournament I ever covered professionally back in 1982,” said the now 50-yerar-old. “I remember I had to get permission from Shepaug to miss school and cover the event for WINE radio in Brookfield. Here I was a kid, who probably looked like he was 12 years old, and I was interviewing Sammy Davis, Jr. (who hosted the tournament at the time), Bob Hope and Gerald Ford. The tournament was held at Wethersfield then and it’s always had a profound place in my heart. Travelers stepping up to the plate to save the event and give back to the community was huge. Coming back here each year is really a joy.”
Adams has won acclaim as a measured and skilled commentator and talk show host. His knowledge of the game and its personalities and history is deep. The PGA Tour has upped the ante on its channel recently with the addition of prominent names, such as players Rich Beam, Ben Crenshaw, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, teachers David Leadbetter and Jim McLean, and the great, retired LPGA star Annika Sorenstam.
“These are all heavy hitters,” said Adams. “The channel is growing and we have hall of famers and big names that are now in the mix. Actually, I have been less surprised with the success we have had than others have been because I always knew there was a huge contingent of listeners bound by their love of golf. I’ve been doing The Fairways of Life as a show for eight years and the daily show for the past five years and I love it.”
He says of his style, “I don’t try to make it about myself, I let the callers be the central theme and voice their opinions. The forum really belongs to those who call in. I’d rather have the callers give their views than me giving mine all the time. We will debate because it’s good to have debate. But it’s their show.”
As mentioned above, Adams started working in radio while in high school, covering a variety of sports for WINE.
“I'd run over to the station at 5 a.m. and edit my features, before running off to school. They liked what I did, so they let me cover the then Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open. A big breakthrough in my career came in 1986 when Art and Norm Cummings had the faith in me to let me put their Greater New Milford (Ct.) Open on local cable. Largely, those packaged golf broadcasts led to my getting a job at ESPN after college (Providence, Class of ’87).”
Because he worked in the golf field every summer from high school onward, the call of the game was strong and he left ESPN to return to spend time on the equipment manufacturing side, then back to the green-grass golf operations side. Along the way, he maintained his media experience. In the mid- to late-1990's, while living in Orlando, Fl., he met producers at the brand new Golf Channel (some from ESPN). He was soon doing "industry insider" segments for the channel, and in 2000 moved to Chicago, while continuing his golf equipment career. Eventually, he decided to "come home" after 9/11 to Rhode Island and became the general manager at Newport National, a position he held until the end of 2012 when his broadcasting demands overtook him.
He talked about some of the magical moments he has had covering the game.
“My top ones are broadcasting The Open from the Old Course at St Andrews with ESPN/DirecTV and the BBC in 2010; taking Ben Hogan's original 1-iron back to the exact spot that he hit it in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion for the first time since he hit it; and calling Phil Mickelson's final shot and putt at the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, Scotland for the world radio feed.”
Two weeks ago, Adams was back in his old stomping grounds helping organize and run the annual Ted Alex Memorial Golf Tournament, held this year at the Golf Club at Oxford Greens in Oxford in honor of the late and legendary Shepaug baseball coach.
“When you realize that most memorial golf tournaments have a life span of about seven years and then think that the Ted Alex event has been going on for 30 years that tells you something about how the man is remembered and how people feel about his family. We give a scholarship to a student at Shepaug, usually a member of the golf team. But the tournament is more about memorializing Ted and the culture and way of life in northwest Connecticut.”
While Matt Adams has travelled far away from the little town of Washington, Ct., in some ways he has really never left, remembering his roots fondly and the people that nurtured his love of golf and broadcasting. Broadcasting live from the Travelers Championship in his home state felt comforting and, well, right.