ORLANDO -- One of the big questions going into this year: How is The Golf Channel going to do broadcasting the PGA Tour?
One of the big questions going into next year: How is The Golf Channel going to broadcasting the PGA Tour without Don McGuire?
In a move that shocked most of its talent and production personnel, Golf Channel President Page Thompson sent out an inter-office memo on Wednesday explaining that McGuire, its senior vice president of programming, production and operations and its most experienced link with the networks, had "left the Golf Channel."
McGuire, 58 on Saturday, had one year remaining on his contract. He joined The Golf Channel in 2005 after working at Turner Sports for nine years, NBC for four and Raycom for four. Thompson, 45, replaced Dave Manougian as The Golf Channel's president after distinguishing himself at Comcast in programming, management and its On Demand service.
"I was told by our President that they want to make a change," McGuire told Golf World. "I'm treating it as the new GM wants a different coach. I believe Comcast is going to be generous to me in making this change and I'm moving on."
McGuire cleaned out his office Tuesday night. He added that he sold off businesses to join The Golf Channel and will remain in Orlando. "I have no lack of options to do other things, but I definitely had a commitment to the Golf Channel," he said.
In his memo, Thompson praised McGuire's work in getting The Golf Channel up and running with its launch of PGA Tour On Air. He instituted Aimpoint as a technical innovation, but it was McGuire's strong-willed leadership that was his legacy at TGC: He supported Kelly Tilghman when she took hits early in the year as The Golf Channel's on-air host, extended telecasts when it wasn't cost-effective, battled with network producers over Thursday-Friday treatment of his product and backed Dottie Pepper when a technical error caused her comments about the U.S. Solheim Cup team being "chokin' freakin' dogs" to go out on-air.
"Shocking," Pepper said Thursday. She heard playing with Frank Nobilo playing a match against NBC producers Tommy Roy and Tom Randolph at Lake Nona. Nobilo, a Golf Channel analyst, got a text message with the news, "and it was a huge buzz," said Pepper.
"Don was one of those guys, if he told you no, you respected it," Pepper said. "Or if he had a criticism, you knew it was warranted, but I certainly appreciate the way he backed me (during the Solheim Cup controversy) and guided me through that like a friend."
Industry sources have indicated that Thompson hopes to create new programming and may be looking to hire an executive with experience in that area. In other words, developing more shows like The Big Break that can draw ratings during the hours when The Golf Channel is not broadcasting its 15-year investment potentially worth several billion dollars. "The diamond in our jewelry was the PGA Tour," McGuire said. "That was 100 percent of our focus in 2007. That was the mandate from the top down."
- -- Tim Rosaforte*