BEHIND THE SCENES
9 Questions With Shane Bacon April 20, 2017 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By David Chmiel, USGA

Shane Bacon (left) says he has enjoyed getting to learn from fellow Fox broadcasters Paul Azinger and Brad Faxon.

 

Shane Bacon is in the moment. Always. Spend just a few minutes with the Fox Sports golf broadcaster – one month removed from a wedding-honeymoon-adventure-for-two in New Zealand with his wife, Cindy Bacon – and you had better be strapped in and ready for a rollicking conversation.

While most golf announcers are all dulcet tones and golf-clap cool, Bacon is in your grill, geeked up to be talking golf, sports, friendship and anything else that pops into your head. His on-air style lets golf lovers live vicariously through him. He speaks to you because, unlike most golf announcers, he has cleaned clubs for tips, picked range balls, written sports columns for his college newspaper at the University of Arizona and caddied – at St. Andrews.

When he returned from Scotland, Bacon tried to make it on the Gateway mini-tour in 2007-08, before he started covering golf for AOL in 2008, where his first gig was the epic U.S. Open showdown between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. From there, he covered golf for Yahoo Sports and CBS online before he moved from behind the keyboard to in front of the camera for “The Turn,” a show on DirecTV’s Back9 Network, and ultimately wound up at Fox, which will broadcast eight USGA championships this year. Bacon will be on all of the Fox broadcasts, in one form or another, as well as writing stories and continuing his weekly podcast.

1) How did you get started in the game?

My dad, Monte, was a big golfer. He was a really good player. He didn’t hit it like a pro, but he was scrappy and could get up-and-down from anywhere. He stopped playing when I was younger to be around the family more. I was playing baseball, basketball and football and wasn’t really interested in golf. Then I started playing competitively and played a lot of AJGA events. I did OK in tournaments, but when I left Marshall, Texas for the University of Arizona, I didn’t try out for the team.

I had an interest in writing so I started working at the Arizona Daily Wildcat. It was a highly regarded [college] paper and I was happy to be there and started covering golf. Ricky Barnes had just won the U.S. Amateur. Erica Blasberg, who was on the 2004 Curtis Cup Team, was winning college events, but nobody was covering golf – and they were paying. 

During the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont, Bacon interviewed forward Phil Kessel, whose Pittsburgh Penguins had just won the Stanley Cup. (USGA/Joel Kowsky)

2) You caddied in the summer of 2006 at St. Andrews? How did that happen and what was it like?

I met Will my first week on campus and we became best buds. We would spend every day in the summer in Tucson, working and playing golf. There was a caddie buddy of his who was from Scotland. He told us that he could get us jobs caddieing at St. Andrews. The St. Andrews caddiemaster said that the Scottish caddies liked to get in early and be done by 2 o’clock, and knew we would be willing to work some of those afternoon rounds. We found a place living with this Scottish woman who charged us £40 pounds a week, £45 if we wanted her to do our laundry. She was a lovely human being and it was fantastic. We had a blast!

3)    What did you learn about caddieing?

First, one of my favorite caddie traits: Blame the player! Caddies start the round believing in their players, betting on them. Then they miss a few putts and they are awful! I am kidding, of course. Caddies give bad reads, too, but they’d never admit that.The caddie fraternity is an interesting group of people, full of conflicting and amazing personalities.

4)    You kept at it, on the LPGA Tour with Irene Cho and Erica Blasberg.

When Erica left Arizona, she came on the scene with a ton of upside. She was No. 1 in the World Amateur Ranking. She was a good buddy of mine and asked me if I could loop for her. It was hard when she passed away. I had never been close with Irene, but she was a friend of Erica’s. I caddied a few times for her, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a living.

5)    How did your early career shape your approach to broadcasting golf?

I was lucky in a way because, throughout my career, I have had to work in a variety of formats. It made me be able to adapt to any working conditions and always be prepared. Usually, announcers are either longtime broadcasters or former players, so when you come in as a writer, you have to figure out a way to belong. Your game doesn’t get better if you don’t hit balls, and your announcing game doesn’t get better if you don’t pick up as much information as possible.

6)    What is the best part about “The Clubhouse” podcast that you do? Will it run all year?

It took a while to get it going, but I love doing it and hope people enjoy it. I enjoy getting to talk to Tour players as well as people like [Golden State Warriors forward] Andre Iguodala, [Phoenix Cardinals wide receiver] Larry Fitzgerald and [NBA broadcaster] Mike Breen about the game of golf. No matter who it is, we will talk golf – and just about anything else! Golf is as young and as fun as it has ever been. The goal isn’t to grill guys, it’s to find out why they love golf, what they do to unwind, find out how they give back and see how they are connected to anyone who plays the game.

Bacon took his game to new heights when he played Whistling Rock in the Republic of Korea. (Courtesy Shane Bacon)

 

7) What have you learned about the USGA since starting at Fox?

It is hard to believe what a massive undertaking it is to put on the U.S. Open and other championships, even the smaller amateur championships. But here is the thing, whether it is the Open, the Women’s Open, the Senior Open or the amateur championships, they are our national championships. They make a difference in people’s lives and it’s an honor to be part of these broadcasts.

Last year, we had a fresh new team; I have so many people to learn from and it has been great to bring the variety of events to broadcast. I really, really, really love the amateur events. It’s awesome to see these kids like Nick Carlson last year in the U.S. Amateur; the Michigan kid was having more fun than anyone should have on the golf course. From these amateurs to the volunteers to give so much of themselves – just because they love golf that much – it is a great reminder of what the USGA does for the game, in and out of championships.

8) You are vocal about getting people to have more fun on the course. How did you guys make it happen?

I have some friends who love their golf, love their families and constantly have to juggle their responsibilities. I am happy to work around their schedules because I would rather play nine holes with them more often than wait for the couple of times they can commit to playing 18 holes. We play early so we can have a fun, fast match, have a great time and they can get back to their kids. That is why I think the USGA’s PLAY9 initiative works.

9) Ultimate foursome?

There are three things I look for in a round of golf – the company I am keeping, the pace of play and the conditions of the greens. I’ve been lucky enough to play with Tour players and Hall of Fame ballplayers. Don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic, but I would trade any of that to slap it around with my Dad, my Uncle Doug and a friend.

10) Bonus Question: How did you and Cindy wind up in New Zealand for your grand adventure/wedding?

We called it “professionally eloping.” We did Auckland and Hobbiton and Queenstown. We found a helicopter company that would fly us to the top of this mountain and marry us right there. It was such a relaxing and enjoyable day with no stress – just two people excited about the next chapter. I think I played golf two days later. That’s the way to do it.

David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Email him at dchmiel@usga.org.