Commentators are synonymous with any sport, but when it comes to major golf tournaments there are only a few people who can get the audience through play that lasts well into the night.
From Dottie Pepper’s faint whisper on the corner of the green to David Feherty’s accent and Nick Faldo’s self-indulging comments, each commentator has left their own mark and therefore carries with them their own memories.
For one, it was the time spent with the late Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999. Chris Berman had been a part of the U.S. Open Championship’s cast of commentators from 1986 to four years after the 1999 event at Pinehurst, North Carolina.
The conversation he holds most dear after all that time spent on tour, and one he will never forget, could not have lasted more than a minute. It ended with a smile that can now only be brought to life through photographs and memories.
The morning before Stewart sank a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole to shoot 1-under 279 to claim his final PGA Tour victory by a single stroke, he was having difficulties getting his warm ups going on the driving range.
Rather than leave well enough alone, Berman took it upon himself check-in with the three-time major winner.
“I said to him, ‘Hey Payne’ … and he wheels around and I say, ‘Have a really good day.’ And he smiled that jack-o-lantern smile and says, ‘You know what … thanks Chris, I will.’”
Berman shared this memory with GOLF.com and opened up about how this encounter, and the tragic death of Stewart less than five months later, have impacted his life almost 20 years later.
“Less than six months later, his plane crash was on a Monday, and I’m announcing it on Monday Night Football,” Berman said. “What started out as a golf story was a life story and makes you not take every day for granted. Things can happen, so enjoy it when you can.”
Fate has a cruel way of reminding people of life-impacting memories. After Berman’s interview with GOLF.com, his would be forced to remember the sanctity of life. His wife, Kathy Berman, died a week later in a tragic car accident.
The audience sees the commentators in a studio-like set up, or interviewing golfers after a round but what goes unnoticed by most are intimate moments that the two people share, who are equally essential to the tournament. The value placed on winning a championship means very little in the grand scheme of things, Berman better than anyone has witnessed that first hand.