ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt is the (bald) talking head welcoming viewers to The Masters today, and the midnight “SportsCenter” host has a pretty straightforward strategy for calling all the classy action: “Turn the cameras on and shut up,” he told TheWrap.
After all, “They’re not turning it on to see me,” SVP astutely added of the millions who will tune in this week.
The new gig requires a bit of a different approach than Van Pelt’s normal light-hearted sports-talk shtick, which he described to us as “loosey-goosey.” Very few would refer to golf play-by-play with the same informal adjective, and no one would (dare) talk about Augusta National that way.
This weekend, the golf course is the star of the show — and ruler. This particular private club comes with a strict set of regulations that could lead a sportscaster to completely stiffen up, losing all personality in the process. The key is to striking the right balance, Van Pelt — who is all personality — says.
“Don’t be an idiot,” he stated. “Don’t come off like a schmuck — but don’t be so stiff that people used to seeing you don’t know who you are.”
Also, don’t try to be perfect out there.
“There’s a tendency to want to try to — to put it in golf parlance — to make a birdie on every hole,” Van Pelt continued. “Just don’t top the ball.”
That was Van Pelt’s approach when he actually played the famous course a few years ago, after getting his number drawn in a lottery for media members. We pushed for details on how the 6’6” University of Maryland alum fared.
“Poorly, from a tee-to-green standpoint,” he said. But it wasn’t about the scorecard for Van Pelt that day.
“I was just such a classic tourist,” he explained. “I just took a picture of basically every moment on every hole.”
The TV and radio personality continued geeking out: “When you walk across the bridge on 12, and you’re on the green … you realize that you have walked to a place where every great player that has every played the game has stood.”
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We pushed him for his score, but didn’t get one. Van Pelt shot “a lot,” he simply put it. But he may have been exaggerating there a little, for the sake of the average golfer.
“Put it this way: I broke 100, and I didn’t three-putt,” he said. Van Pelt was quick to remind us: “You can two-putt for a ‘6.’”
He concluded: “I wasn’t trying to break the course record anyway. It was just for the walk, and it was amazing.”
ESPN will air live action from the first and second round of The Masters on Thursday, April 6, and Friday, April 7, from 3-7:30 p.m. ET.
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