College golf like you've never heard it
Mark Laesch has had an idea in the works for a couple years, and admittedly it still needs some work.
As the founder and operator of Golfstat.com, which has streamed live stats of college golf events since 2001, Laesch knew he had an opportunity to bring those stats and college athletes a bit more to life.
He's taken that step, producing live play-by-play broadcasts from three tournaments since August on what he's calling Golfstat Radio. The most recent broadcast was from this weekend's Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough, Tenn., where listeners heard the impressive comeback by Kent State in taking the team title.
Streaming live on the Golfstat website, Laesch serves as the moderator of these audio telecasts, relying on the help of volunteers who are on location at each tournament to provide description of the action.
"We're still learning. We've only done it a few times," said Laesch, who brought the inaugural broadcast to golf fans at the Cardinal Amateur this summer, then returned last month during the final round of Mason Rudolph Women's Fall Preview outside Nashville, Tenn. "We're not afraid to go out and fail a little bit if that failure will help make it better in the long run."
Technical expert Buck Bohac, who partnered with Laesch after sharing his vision to bring Laesch's Golfstat live scoring system at the 2001 NCAA Championship, has been instrumental to the process of making this particular vision a reality. After hearing from a bunch of fans who craved more information than simply live stats, and then listening in to committee members at last spring's NCAA Championships radioing updates on each hole, the duo knew there was a niche to capitalize on and "the light bulbs went on," Laesch said.
Laesch compares Golfstat Radio's broadcasts to reports on the Weather Channel when a hurricane hits an area—the network asks guest reporters in the heart of the storm what it's like to be there. Without any professional talent to send to tournaments Laesch relies on locals, preferably with course knowledge, to bring reports to the Golfstat audience over the phone. (Laesch also has incorporated video of the holes that his broadcasts cover, with commentary from local experts.)
It's been a trial-and-error process thus far, said Laesch, who will work one other fall tournament and hopes to expand coverage in the spring. He wasn't happy with the quality of two of his broadcasts this weekend from Blackthorn Club, but is troubleshooting on the go, such as seeing how much of a difference high-quality headsets make. (A big one, he admits. "I'm going to have to bite the bullet," Laesch said, "and go with the more expensive ones.")
He's been coaching guest commentators who, despite volunteering out of the goodness of their hearts, have taken a couple holes to learn how detailed their reports need to be.
And yet still he's getting positive feedback from people who, he says, would tell him if it's not going well. "I'm overly critical," said Laesch, who believes the broadcasts can be an additional way to make Golfstat synonymous with college golf. "But I'm really excited, I'm tickled by it."
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