Golf's big TV break

It was interesting to see golf make it into television's light entertainment ranks when Ant and Dec's Northern Rock All Star Cup was aired over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

It was interesting to see golf make it into television's light entertainment ranks when Ant and Dec's Northern Rock All Star Cup was aired over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth led the way to a European victory over the USA in the star-studded celebrity tournament at De Vere Celtic Manor in Wales.

The event, hosted by the Geordie duo, produced some high quality golf as well as some well received viewing figures.

In true Ryder Cup style drama, the European side - that included the likes of DJ Chris Evans, actors James Nesbitt and Ross Kemp, singer Ronan Keating, former Arsenal and England footballer Ian Wright, model Jodie Kidd and former Magpies boss Ruud Gullit - lined up against a US team boasting the talents of ageing rockers Alice Cooper and Meatloaf and actors Jane Seymour and William Baldwin.

But it was game show legend Brucie who stole the limelight as he led Europe to victory and was then named player of the tournament.

A low point for the Americans came when Desperate Housewives star Richard Burgi became so disappointed with his standard of play that he handed his clubs to Chris Evans's caddie and left him to complete his round.

Whatever you may have thought of the idea of golf being reduced to reality TV level, you have to admit that the sport's often cited "old fuddy-duddy" image certainly received a pretty sexy small screen makeover.

Such shiny publicity, backed by the involvement of talents such as Colin Montgomerie and Todd Hamilton, can only help attract new players to the game - particularly young adults and children.

And that process is not only vital for all the healthy survival of scores of clubs up and down the North East - but also the good of the game long-term.

Ant and Dec are, of course, masters of the reality TV monster, though they managed to bring their passion for golf to proceedings and inject a palpable sense of credibility to a show that could have reduced the sport itself to a mere incidental role - like the spa tub in Big Brother!

What's more, the idea was Ant and Dec's own, and they made it happen through their own production company last year, when the tournament was restricted to satellite TV.

The inaugural event had proved so successful that sponsorship and several prime time slots on ITV1 moved the whole thing on several notches this year and brought the show to a huge prime time audience.

And why not?

Other sports and leisure activities have been happily cashing in on the fun and frivolities of light entertainment TV for years.

Let's face it, golf, compared to ballroom dancing for instance, is infinitely more interesting and exciting - in my eyes at least.

Well done to Ant and Dec, who have handicaps of 24 and 28 respectively, for giving golf such a great platform.

They certainly are very keen golfers and seem to whole-heartedly believe the sport has a mass-market, multi-faceted appeal.

As Dec told Golf North East's sister publication, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle: "Any day in the diary we see is free, there's only one thing on our minds. We just look at each other and don't have to say anything. If we can get 18 holes in, brilliant.

"If we can't then it's nine holes, and if we haven't got time for that we'll just play the par-three course - it only takes an hour."


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer