Mike Tirico has had various broadcasting duties at the Masters for the better part of 20 years, including play-by-play host for ESPN during weekday coverage. What excites him about this year is working the weekend in a new event that gives viewers their first look at Augusta National.
NBC Sports says Tirico will be the play-by-play host for the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. NBC will have live coverage from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, ahead of the Masters.
Tirico also will host for the first time the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals the next day.
“We all know as golf fans there’s nothing like that Thursday when you get to see competition at Augusta National,” Tirico said Tuesday from Phoenix, where he is covering the NFL meetings. “Every fan looks forward to turning on the TV and seeing it for the first time.”
Now the viewers get their first look five days earlier.
“You’re going to see tremendous players ... under pressure they never faced before,” Tirico said. “That’s pretty cool TV.”
It will be the first competition for women at the home of the Masters, and Tirico says being an amateur event speaks even deeper to the heritage. Augusta National was the vision of Bobby Jones, the co-founder and the most prominent amateur in the history of golf.
“To have Augusta National not only open its course for a great competition for women, but women amateurs, the combination of the two is as strong a message as you can sent to the roots of golf, the growth of golf and the development of golf,” he said. “It’s the most known canvas in golf, and you’re bringing a new palette, and it’s going to be awesome.”
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur features 72 top players competing for two rounds at Champions Retreat, with a cut to exactly 30 players, even if a playoff for the final spots is required. All participants can have a practice round Friday, with the final of the 54-hole event the following day.
Tirico will be joined in the booth by NBC Sports golf analysts Paige Mackenzie, a three-time All-American at Washington, and Gary Koch, who has spent 22 years as an NBC golf analyst and will be calling golf at Augusta National for the first time.
Two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kay Cockerill and Frank Nobilo will be hole announcers.
Tirico’s career has including host duties at the Olympics, Sunday night football, the British Open and, later this year, the Indianapolis 500. He considers the Augusta National Women’s Amateur as having similar characteristics to the Olympics.
Amateur golf is not widely covered on network TV outside of the USGA’s biggest events, and the NCAA Championships have gained traction in recent years going to match play and full coverage on Golf Channel.
“The players, other than a few that I’ve seen during the NCAAs, are mostly unknown to fans,” Tirico said. “This is what we do on a regular basis for the Olympics, with athletes we don’t cover every day who have stories to be told.”