My Experience as a Junior Course Reporter at the Waste Management Phoenix Open – Mark Levin
By Mark Levin, The First Tee of Phoenix
Day One – Thursday, February 1, 2017
Today was the first day I was going to the Waste Management Phoenix Open to be a junior course reporter, and I’m not going to lie – I was a little nervous to start the day. I got dressed in my golf attire, ate a quick breakfast, and I was on my way to meet up with Coach Daniel at 8:00am at the First Tee booth. I met up with Coach Daniel and my other fellow course reporter Anah, got my fancy media badge, and we were off to start our adventure! The media badge was pretty great because it allowed us access to the behind-the-scenes areas where the players were.
The start turned out to be pretty slow, though. Our group watched a little golf on the first couple of holes in the tournament but we didn’t talk to anyone. Anah and I were both really nervous walking up to pros or caddies to ask them for a quick interview because we haven’t done reporting before. We decided to walk around some more and then we found Chantel McCabe from NBC. Chantel is a reporter, so we decided to ask her for some tips on how we can approach the pros with our questions. She told us that we needed to be confident, ask simple questions, and don’t get too technical with stats and really detailed information. We needed to have a human connection and to be natural and most importantly, not to stress out or worry about it – we should have fun with it!
We then went back to the media area because players were starting to finish up their morning rounds and we could catch a couple players for an interview. As a little extra confidence boost we also talked to Erik Lang from Vice Golf. He told us that it was our job to be reporting on players and the tournament so we had to not be scared and walk up to players. He also said that if you make it seem like you are interested in them, then people will respond to you. And with the advice from two reporters we set out to get our interviews.
Our interviews on our first day were awesome! With our confidence boost we set out and got some amazing people to talk to. Our first interview was Phil Mickelson. He talked to us for ten minutes! He was very nice and we were extremely grateful to him for giving us some of his time. He told us about the importance of exercise in the game of golf and how important the fundaments of the sport are. We need to have strong core muscles with excellent lower body strength. This would give us a good base to set up for a shot. In our exercises we need to focus on four areas of training; strength, balance, rotation, and speed. Also that slowing down your backswing is just as important as starting it. He also emphasized how important it is to test all different kind of shots to see how the ball will react in different situations. You will get more comfortable with these awkward, tiny shots and it will help you become a better, well-rounded player.
After Phil gave me and Anah a wonderful interview, we then approached Rickie Fowler. Rickie gave us some advice on how to maintain a good attitude on the course. He said that you have to focus only on yourself, not on the other players, and how you can improve. While playing the course, take note of how you can save a shot here or there next time so that you can get a lead. You also need to stay consistent and just go with the flow. We thanked Rickie for his time and then we went to talk to Tony Finau. Tony gave us some driving tips, how we can improve our grip and how we can do some training drills to improve our aim. After that we watched some of the tournament to finish up our star-studded day.
Day Two – Friday, February 2, 2017
The next day I met up with Coach Daniel and Anah and we had a very fun time. We watched more of the tournament (it was my first time going to a golf tournament, actually) and I had a great time seeing the pros in person. It was really interesting to see how they carefully plan out each shot and how they were so focused on just the game.
We talked to Smylie Kaufman about how to stay composed and he gave us some good putting advice. He said that junior golfers especially need to practice to eliminate three-putts to improve their score. He also said our putting grip needs to be at about 2/10 strength. Most people make the mistake of gripping the putter too hard, at about 8/10 strength.
We also saw how the PGA Shotlink System works. It tracks where each ball on the tour lies. It was really cool how they have all this sophisticated equipment and the response time for every ball tracked showed up live on air just five seconds after it actually happened.
We watched some more of the tournament after that and ate lunch at the media lounge. That pretty much wrapped up our second day; it was nice to enjoy the tournament courtesy of Waste Management. I am especially grateful to The First Tee for offering me this amazing, once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I enjoyed every second of it and it is something I’ll never forget!