By Sam McPherson
Lance Barrow assumed the position of coordinating producer for CBS Sports golf coverage in January 1997, right before the emergence of Tiger Woods and the resulting increase in the sport’s awareness and popularity. Barrow had produced the majority of CBS’s golf coverage in 1996, and he has produced all of it since 1997.
Barrow, an 11-time Emmy Award winner, joined CBS Sports in May 1975 as a spotter/researcher and has served in virtually every capacity of CBS Sports’ golf production in a 40-year career. He worked his first Masters Tournament in 1977 as a spotter for Pat Summerall and later accepted the Emmy Award for CBS Sports’ coverage of the 2004 Masters.
Outside of golf, Barrow produced CBS Sports’ coverage of ski jumping and Nordic combined at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and was the associate director of the prime-time broadcasts at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. He has served as producer for coverage of NCAA basketball, NFL football, college football and auto racing. Barrow is the lead game producer and coordinating producer of the network’s NFL coverage.
With a varied career in television sports, Barrow reflects on his humble beginnings at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas — home of this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational — and the amazing sporting events he’s worked on over the years. He also discusses the modern-day golf fan and the TV coverage they expect.
How did you get your start working on golf?
When I was a junior in college at Abilene Christian University, I came out to the Colonial. Chuck Will, the right-hand person for the legendary Frank Chirkinian who created golf TV, hired me and put me on the 18th tower with Pat Summerall. That’s what started my career with CBS. I worked for Pat for about six years and then went to New York; one thing led to another led to another.
How does it feel coming back each year to the place where you got your start?
It’s great! It’s where I grew up. It’s home. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to come back and be a part of all this and be a part of this great tournament and then be responsible for putting it on the air along with our crew at CBS Sports.
What does it take to produce a golf tournament?
That’s a great question; I’ve never been asked that question before. I’ve always said golf is the hardest sport to do on television, because there’s more than one ball, nobody has numbers on their back and nobody ever stops playing. That’s what makes golf so much harder than every other sport to do on television. It might not look fast and kind of a little slow on television, but behind the scenes, there’s a lot of stuff going on.
How does producing golf differ from producing other sports?
Other sports, like football and basketball, when you go to commercial, they usually stop playing until you come back. In golf, you have to figure out when to go to commercial, what players play quickly, what players play slowly, how far it is from green to tee box … so, all of that comes into play. If you ever get behind on covering golf and you make the wrong moves, it’s like digging a hole with a front-end loader and filling it back in with a teaspoon: You can never catch up.
What are the most memorable moments over your career?
Obviously, my very first one was the first Masters I got to produce in 1997, which was the year Tiger Woods won his first major and also his first Masters. That is the one that stands out as much as any. My most exciting event — I was actually the associate director/replay producer — was when Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters. That was really the most exciting one that I’ve been a part of. But the Tiger one is the one I always remember, being there and producing that. There were a lot of things involved in that golf tournament: Me being only the second person to produce the Masters on television, for Tiger to win that golf tournament the way he did and the way it became the highest-rated golf telecast.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I don’t ever look at it as anything was a challenge; I just look at it as I’ve been very blessed to be able to get to do exactly what I wanted to do. I was a kid in high school, and I always thought about wanting to be a producer. Sean McManus, our chairman, and Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS, and obviously the executives at CBS Sports have put me in that position to have the opportunity to be in charge of golf and also to be in charge of and to do our No. 1 NFL game. It’s just something that’s a great blessing to me that I am able to do that. Knock on wood, I am kind of superstitious when it comes to talking about these sort of things, but I am not sure I’ve ever really had our crew — not me, in particular, but our whole crew — I’m not sure we’ve ever really had a total disaster. And that will be the last, as Forrest Gump said, I’ll speak on that subject.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen come to golf TV coverage over your career?
The biggest change is obviously the RF [radio frequency] cameras that we’re able to go anywhere on the golf course with as long as they see a signal. Luckily, when I came along, we already were covering golf in color. Golf is such a visual sport because of beauty and things like that. And also HD television: I know it’s not true, but I always said that HDTV was created for golf, because it makes golf pop out and shows the golf course better.
What does the golf fan want most out of TV coverage in 2015?
They want to see the competition. They want to see the players playing, and they don’t want anything to get in the way of that. They also want to see where the golf ball is going, from the air — like the blimp. They would like to see the contour of the golf course, which TV is yet to catch up with that. But we’re working on that; that will come one day. The main thing I always hear about our coverage of golf is we show the competition, and that’s what people want to see.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.