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Published: Saturday, 7/30/2011

USGA rules stymie local TV sports coverage of Open

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jay Haas hits out of the rough on the 8th hole during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Friday at Inverness Club in Toledo. Jay Haas hits out of the rough on the 8th hole during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Friday at Inverness Club in Toledo.
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The 32nd annual U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club is the most significant sporting event this year in Toledo.

The United States Golf Association event is one of the major championships on the senior tour and typically attracts top players age 50 and older.

Yet, USGA broadcast regulations have left Toledo television sports directors frustrated over the opportunities to provide only limited coverage of the four-day tournament for northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan viewers.

“We can’t do anything,” said Eric Haubert, sports director for WNWO-TV, Channel 24.

USGA regulations don’t allow for any TV cameras on the golf course during play other than those responsible for the national broadcast. Local TV camera crews are limited to videotaping the golfers practicing and being interviewed at the end of a round.

Footage of actual play is supplied to local TV stations by NBC Sports, ESPN, or the Golf Channel, which are designated to broadcast the USGA event.

Haubert, who grew up in Maumee, would prefer to go out and gather his own stories, especially for the hometown audience.

“Personally, I’m from this area. I’m a blue-collar guy and I want to get out there and get sweaty and get dirty out on the greens,” Haubert said. “I love chasing the story, as opposed to having it brought to me.”

Dan Cummins, sports director for WTOL-TV, Channel 11, also would rather have access to the course to create their own stories and not be limited to working with generic video offered to every other local station.

Localized features can be difficult to pull off without any footage.

“This is what gets me, you can’t show a golfer walking from the green to the next tee,” Cummins said. “From the time they tee off at 1 to the time they walk off the 18th green we can’t show any of the golf course, which is frustrating.”

USGA official Pete Kowalski said a decision was made a few years ago to limit local media access at USGA events. Kowalski said the change was made at the request of the broadcast rights holders to maintain control of their product.

Howard Chen, sports director for WUPW-TV, Channel 36, watched Mark O’Meara during the first round walk onto the 18th green and tipped his cap in response to applause coming from the gallery. At that moment, Chen thought the little gesture by O’Meara could work well during the sports segment on the local Fox affiliate’s evening newscast.

Yet, he wasn’t sure if the highlights made available for use would even include the moment.

“It feels weird that we’re not on the course shooting,” Chen said. “It kind of changes our job. Usually when we’re out there we’re witnesses to different moments in history and when people hit great shots we’re able to see them live.”

Chen said the setup for local television coverage of the Open is one part frustration, another part relaxation.

That is, when comparing the access given to local media for the LPGA’s Jamie Farr Tournament held at Highland Meadows in past years.

“It’s definitely easier, more relaxing and less stress,” Chen said. “Less planning is really needed to cover this now. In those ways, it’s pretty good.

“On the other hand, I guess I’m the type of person who is a trained workaholic, and I’m used to working. It is a huge thing for Toledo and I wish I could cover it the way we’ve covered Jamie Farr Tournaments in the past.”

Dave Holmes, sports director for WTVG-TV, Channel 13, also thinks the USGA regulations have hampered local coverage in comparison to covering the Farr. However, Holmes has taken the limited local media access situation in stride.

“I’ve had a long July, so this is all right for me to just come out and watch golf,” he said. “It’ll be fun once we get back to the Farr next year when we can be really go active and sink our teeth into it.

“But for this week, I’ve actually been all right having a nice relaxing week and watching some of the best players out here.”

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302


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