On the morning after The Golf Channel host Peter Kessler
criticized the network's co-founder and chairman, Arnold Palmer,
on air, he paid Palmer a visit at his offices at Bay Hill Club
near the channel's Orlando base. "Man, I heard you were tough on
me last night," said Palmer with a grin.
"No," responded Kessler, who on his Oct. 19 Viewer's Forum show
had denounced Palmer's endorsement of a nonconforming driver (the
ERC II) that Callaway Golf plans to sell domestically. "I was
really tough on you."
Known for his smooth interviewing style, Kessler, an eight
handicapper who is host of Golf Talk Live and the instructional
Academy Live, is nobody's caddie. He has become a figure of
integrity on a network whose credibility could potentially be
compromised by its near-incestuous relationship with the sport.
But by denouncing not only Palmer but also Callaway, a leading
advertiser on The Golf Channel, Kessler landed out-of-bounds with
management. "I was called into the offices and told it was't my
job to give my opinion," says Kessler of his 40-minute
dressing-down, which was first reported in Golf World magazine.
"Their tone was serious. I was told there were going to be strong
repercussions. I read that there wasn't going to be, but no one
has confirmed that with me internally."
Sources at The Golf Channel say that Kessler won't be punished
beyond the reprimand. The 48-year-old Kessler concedes that his
outburst was uncharacteristically emotional. "I came out very
passionately against [the ERC II]," he says. "Too much so. I made
it personal with Arnold. However, this is an issue central to the
integrity of the game. To hear Arnold Palmer come out in favor of
that club was so disorienting; it was like hearing the pope say
that premarital orgies are O.K."
Kessler has used Viewer's Forum before to opine on issues from
Casey Martin's quest to use a golf cart during competition (he
also parted company with Palmer on that topic, arguing that
Martin be allowed to use a cart) to the U.S. team's behavior at
last year's Ryder Cup, which he criticized. After this latest
harangue, though, it appears that management prefers he play from
the ladies' tees. "I've done about 60,000 minutes on this
network," says Kessler, "and I understand if management was
displeased with those 10. But this is the first time that the
issue of my having an opinion has been raised. Why? Because it's
Arnold. Hey, he's the King. He's not God." Kessler says that the
displeasure over the Callaway incident won't stanch his flow of
What does the King think? Last week Palmer told a reporter from
The Golf Channel, "I'm not going to speak about this until I go
on Golf Talk Live in January."
Should make for good television. --J.W.
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT HALLERAN
PURSUIT OF SCHOLARSHIP
An online service helps high school athletes find colleges--and
Are you a high school senior seeking a college athletic
scholarship? You might try clicking on collegerecruiting.com, a
database that allows athletes to advertise themselves to
recruiters. A student client pays $29 to list his or her profile,
which is categorized by sport (39 in all) and subcategorized by
such criteria as position, geographic region, SAT and ACT scores,
grades and class rank. Clients list athletic and academic honors
and can post game tapes, newspaper clippings and, perhaps most
important, their phone numbers. Recruiters pay no fee to tap into
The site was founded in 1997 by Wendi Swanson, a former
nonscholarship starting infielder for the Bucknell softball team.
"This service isn't for the blue-chip, All-America stud," says
Swanson, 28. Rather, it's for such players as Jacob Insler, a
5'11" senior point guard at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach,
Calif. Insler has solid averages on the court (9.4 points and 4.2
assists per game last season) and in the classroom (3.85 GPA with
a 1,200 SAT). "Recruiting isn't going quite that well," says
Jacob, "so my dad thought that [the site] might be a good way to
advertise myself." Insler might take heart from the story of
Andrew Riffee, a freshman catcher at Division III Washington and
Lee, whom coach Jeff Stickley contacted after seeing Riffee's
profile on the site. "It really is like a blind-dating service,"
says Riffee of collegerecruiting.com.
Now if Swanson can only find her clients dates for the senior
When Kessler editorialized against Callaway's new driver, his
bosses said he was out-of-bounds.