Arnold Palmer, the golf legend and, with an assist from IMG founder Mark McCormack, sports marketing icon, includes “co-founder of Golf Channel” on his extensive resume. The winner of seven major tournaments became friends with cable entrepreneur Joe Gibbs in 1990 and five years later they launched the Golf Channel. Multichannel.com news editor Mike Reynolds spoke with The King via phone at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., about the network’s early days, its current lineup and the state of some key players’ games.
MCN: Mr. Palmer, how are you feeling? Still getting out and hitting that ball?
Arnold Palmer: I’m not playing right now. I fell, and did a 360 and dislocated my right shoulder. It’s giving me a fit.
MCN: Are you OK?
AP: It’s been slow, but it’s getting better. I have been going to therapy three days a week. I’m like a caged lion. I want to get back out there and swing the golf clubs.
MCN: Going back to the early days, what were your thoughts when you first heard about the idea of a 24/7 channel dedicated to golf from Joe Gibbs?
AP: I had some questions that I wanted answered. But Joe and I spent a lot of time together and we talked and got things worked out. It’s been a great success.
MCN: Has it helped grow the game?
AP: Absolutely. It’s been very popular. I’m very proud of all the work that has been done by Comcast and now working together with NBC. Golf Channel has made a tremendous impact on the sport.
MCN: How much do you watch Golf Channel? Are you a Morning Drive and Golf Central guy?
AP: Yes sir. I try to stay in touch with the game, especially through Golf Channel. I watch the interviews with the players and the [shows] you mentioned. I watch the players here, and on the Asian Tour, the European Tour and the African [Sunshine] Tour. I try to watch at odd times to see what’s going on at different times during the day.
MCN: So, you’re watching early morning, in the afternoon and late at night.
AP: Yes, sir. There are a lot of different kinds of stuff, beyond the tournaments. There is a lot of original programming around the game that you wouldn’t see on TV otherwise.
MCN: What did you think of the documentary about you? Arnie was acclaimed and did very well with viewers.
AP: The reaction has been great. People come up to me all the time even now, and they say they’ve watched three or four times. They show it to guests when they come visit. It’s very flattering.
MCN: What do you think of the young players on tour? What about Rory McIlroy?
AP: Rory is one of the finest younger golfers I’ve ever seen. He could be golf’s shining light over the next few years.
MCN: What are your thoughts about [Comcast CEO] Brian Roberts and [Golf Channel] president Mike McCarley?
AP: I know them both very well. Mike has been doing a great job since he came to the Golf Channel. Brian and Comcast have always supported Golf and are 100% involved. He has a real commitment to it.
MCN: How are their games?
AP: Brian plays quite well. He’s a member at Augusta. Mike’s a good golfer. I’ve played with him quite frequently, and he’s going to keep at it and do very well.
MCN: What else would you like to see on the network going forward?
AP: We’ve done quite a bit already, and we’re going to continue to build because the audience wants to see new and innovative things.