Peter Alliss, the voice of golf
PUBLISHED: 12:53 13 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013
As a commentator he has become known as the 'voice of golf', but the former Ryder Cup star was highly accomplished in his playing days too. Craig Robinson talked to him
As a commentator he has become known as the voice of golf, but the former Ryder Cup star was highly accomplished in his playing days too. Craig Robinson talked to him about Tiger Woods, changes in the game and his liking for Woodbridge Golf Club
FOR decades Peter Alliss has entertained viewers with a charismatic style of commentary that has quite rightly seen him lauded as the voice of golf.
His witty demeanour and off the cuff humour have won him an army of fans of which even some of todays top stars would be proud.
He once claimed he was a golf commentator only because he was there as an old player, a lover of the game and a good weaver of stories.
However, this is possibly too modest and he is widely regarded as one of if not the best pundits the sport has ever had.
Next month the 79-year-old will be visiting Suffolk as part of his nationwide Evening with tour a trip he has not made that often during his illustrious career.
Suffolk is not a county I know well when it comes to golf, he said. A few years ago I was lucky enough to play some exhibition matches at Woodbridge. I remember it being a very attractive club and I enjoyed it immensely. However, other than that I dont think I have not had the pleasure of playing any others.
This is perhaps surprising for a county that boasts around 30 golf courses including high profile tracks such as Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Ipswich.
That said he did include Thetford, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, in his guide to the best courses in Great Britain published several years ago.
His visit to Felixstowes Spa Pavilion on September 3 is one Alliss is looking forward to immensely.
It promises to be an entertaining night of stories and anecdotes as well as a series of questions and answers in which he will share his wisdom on the game he holds so dear.
I will talk about the history of my life and then the audience will hopefully put together some good questions, he said. Im looking forward to coming to Felixstowe and hopefully we will all have a pleasant time.
With his father, Percy, among the finest players of his generation it was perhaps inevitable that Alliss junior would also make a career in golf.
He quickly established himself as one the top young stars and between 1954 and 1969 he triumphed in 21 professional tournaments - including three British PGA championships.
In September 1958 he won the national championships of Italy, Spain, and Portugal in three consecutive weeks.
His first appearance in the Ryder Cup was in 1953, and with the single exception of 1955, he represented Great Britain and Ireland in the event until 1969.
He made his broadcasting debut way back in 1961, as part of the BBC team covering the Open Championship at Birkdale which was won by Arnold Palmer.
His retirement from international golf at the relatively early age of 38 in 1969 led to a full-time career on the other side of the ropes and he has not looked back since.
There is no doubtTiger Woodshas damaged his reputation. It is the most public humiliation of any sporting personality Ive ever known. However, he is a wonderful player and he is still up there."
His popularity extends across the globe and he is well known in the US, Australia and Canada for injecting that well know sparkle into even the most mundane of rounds.
He has also carved out a successful career as a writer and golf course design consultant.
Meanwhile he has twice served as captain of the Professional Golfers' Association, was the first president of the European Women's Professional Golfers Association, is past president of the British Greenkeepers' Association and among an extensive list of charity work is patron of the Blind Golfers Association.
With such a wealth of experience what does Alliss think about todays game?
I think technology has made it a lot easier whether thats a good or a bad thing only time will tell, he said. I do think the game has got a bit away from itself I dont know how we reign that back. But they said that in the 1920s and 30s when hickory shafts were replaced with the steel shafts. I remember when Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile he was running in army boots and he nearly died. Now they run in light weight slippers and are interviewed just minutes after finishing and they are hardly breathing. Its just progress. Golf is no different.
What about the million dollar question of who is the greatest player to have ever lived? For Alliss it is too close to call.
The likes of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tony Jacklin they have all had their time, he said. I dont think its fair to compare generations. For the last 10 years of course theres only been one significant other and thats Tiger Woods, although even he has been having his problems.
And what does Alliss make of the Americans off the course antics and string of extra marital affairs? Will he be able to recapture the magic that has thrilled the world of golf for more than a decade and win the 18 major championships that will see him tie Nicklauss record?
There is no doubt he has damaged his reputation, Alliss said. It is the most public humiliation of any sporting personality Ive ever known. However, he is a wonderful player and he is still up there. The next month will be very important in the life of Tiger Woods. It will be interesting to see how he gets on at the US PGA Championship that will be the yard stick. But you can never write him off.
With Woods a little off colour it has opened the door to other players especially those from England and Northern Ireland who make up five of the Worlds top ten.
Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter have all been impressive of late and are knocking on the door when it comes to winning one of the four major tournaments.
It also makes good reading ahead of this years Ryder Cup, which is happening at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales in October and will see the top Europeans take on the cream of the crop from the USA.
Westwood is certainly playing very well at the moment, Alliss said. I enjoy watching him and think he is a lovely player. Though whether he can move up to that next level I dont know. Certainly English and European golf is very strong at the moment. It is a good sign for the Ryder Cup. I just hope Colin Montgomerie [the team captain] gets the mixture right. He will have the headache of too many people and too few places. Im a little concerned about the weather at that time of year it is overlooking the sea and the wind can blow. However, Im sure there will be a good home crowd and everyone will be enjoying themselves. Thats whats important.
In the last few years there has also been a resurgence of the golden oldies with the likes of Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer rolling back the years to put in some strong performances on both the regular PGA tour and the senior circuit.
Golf is a game that if you keep yourself fit and crucially still have your nerve thats the important thing then you can keep on going, Alliss said. Its not like rugby or football where you can still put in some half decent displays. If you lose your nerve youve had it.
The game is certainly riding on the crest of a wave at the moment.
Golf in general has never been more popular with playing numbers soaring across the globe among women and juniors alike.
Inevitably the current economic situation has dealt a blow to many clubs, with memberships dwindling as people are forced to tighten the purse strings.
Unfortunately when people are trying to save, or are supporting a family, then the golf membership is one of the first things to go, Alliss said. Im not sure what can be done about it. We just need to get out of this current situation so that people can start earning more money.
Despite of it across the globe more people seem to be playing and enjoying it. The womens game is also very strong. Anything that increases the popularity of the sport is a good thing. People play it everywhere now, its fantastic.