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Cleveland: Jim Gallagher Transitions from Golfing to Announcing

Jim Gallagher, Jr. of Greenwood, just turned 54, has made the successful transition from playing golf for a living to commenting about golf on television.

The least surprised people of all are his family, especially his wife, Cissye.

“For years it’s been the same way at our house,” Cissye says. “We’ll be sitting around watching a golf tournament or any kind of game and something big will happen. Jim will immediately say why it happened and then the TV announcer will repeat just what Jim has just said. It’s been kind of uncanny really.”

Now, Gallagher does commentary for Golf Channel. Sometimes, he’s on the golf course where the tournament is being played. Sometimes, he’s in the network studio in Orlando.

He’s a natural on TV. He’s quick. He’s knowledgeable. He doesn’t mind saying what is on his mind.

What I like most about him: He doesn’t just state the obvious. He doesn’t tell you what you already know. He gives you insight. He tells you stuff you need to know.

Gallagher has the background to do that. During the Ryder Cup last summer, he could tell you how much pressure there was on any given shot and how it affected the player. He could tell you what it means to play under such suffocating duress. After all, he’s done it. In fact, he has been a Ryder Cup hero.

In a couple weeks, during The Masters, he can tell you what it’s like for a rookie to tee it up for the first time at Augusta National. He’s done that, too.

He shot 67, by the way, even though, as he puts it, “I was so nervous on the first tee I thought I was going to wet my pants.”

The guess here is that Gallagher will tell listeners just that.

There has long been an argument in the sports TV industry whether ex-jocks should play such a huge role in broadcasting. A football player retires, hangs up his pads, puts on a suit and suddenly becomes an announcer, taking a job that might be filled by someone who studied broadcast journalism in college and has 20 years of experience behind a microphone.

My take? Some of the ex-jocks are good; some are gosh-awful. You can’t throw a blanket over all of them.

My second take? If the ex-jock is good, he or she can tell you stuff others can’t. They’ve been there, done that. They can deliver insight others can’t possibly give you. (Having said that, those Sunday morning pre-game shows where ex-football players yell at each other give me the worst migraines imaginable.)

Gallagher will do at least 12 tournaments for the Golf Channel this season: six on the PGA Tour and three each on the LPGA and Champions Tours.

“And we’ll see what happens after that,” he says. “I am enjoying it. I am learning every time out. I love the people I work with. I look forward to going to work.”

This past week, in the Champions Tour event at Fallen Oak in Saucier, Gallagher traded in the microphone for his golf clubs. He played his first 18 holes of golf this year in a practice round on Monday. He played his first competitive round since last September on Friday.

The results were predictable. On a really difficult golf course, he shot 76-76-79.

“The thing is I hit a lot of quality shots,” Gallagher says. “Obviously, I hit some stinkers, too. It’s just hard to get the ball in the hole, especially on a golf course like this one, when you haven’t been playing.”

It will be back to the microphone for The Masters. He knows for certain he will play one more event, the Senior PGA Championship May 1924 in French Lick, Ind. How much he plays after that will depend on how he plays there and how many exemptions he receives.

What is certain: He will do more announcing than playing. And, at 54, he’s fine with that.


Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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