- Alistair Tait
R.I.P. Peter Alliss: the Voice of Golf
I wish I’d spent more time in Peter Alliss’s company. My knowledge of this great game would be far greater if I had. The Voice of Golf had probably forgot more about this sport than I know when he went to that great clubhouse in the sky yesterday at the age of 89.
I was fortunate to spend time in his company on occasions during my career. I didn’t talk much each time. I just listened and learned. I could have listened to his stories for hours on end.
Read friend and colleague John Huggan’s Golf Digest story for the definitive Peter Alliss obituary. John knew him far better than I did, and spent more time with him over the years. The words he produces for his Golf Digest story are living proof of that. It’s an excellent read.
Our game has some wonderful commentators, but none better than Alliss. That “Voice of Golf” tag was apropos. Yes, he had the silky voice; yes, he had great stories; a brilliant sense of humour; however, he also stood out because he wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. As Huggan writes:
“He wasn’t above speaking his mind on what he sees today. A part of his character that was known to irritate a few of today’s stars.
“Despite his long relationship with the biennial contest, the Ryder Cup was not immune either. Nor was another of the game’s sacred cows, the Masters.”
Alliss proved that when he told John:
“The Ryder Cup has taken on a little bit of a false persona, a bit like Augusta and the Masters. Just as Augusta National is supposed to be the greatest place in the world – it isn’t – the Ryder Cup is supposed to be the greatest golf event in the world – it isn’t either. But, because of the excitement each has generated over the years – the “War on the Shore” and all that other bollocks – it has become something it was never meant to be.”
Oh, for that sort of candidness from many of today’s commentators who seem to have been seconded from the various professional tours. We’ve just had four rounds of the Masters when superlatives flowed out of commentators’ mouths as if Augusta chairman Fred Ridley had ordered them.
Alliss wasn’t afraid to call the Augusta greens “silly,” to dare to criticise the hallowed turf. Oh, the very thought. Furthermore, in an age when announcers seem to think they have to fill every second of air time, Alliss wasn’t afraid to stay schtum and let the action do the talking.
My favourite Alliss quote comes from the 1991 Ryder Cup, the “War on the Shore” he refers to. When Corey Pavin was prancing around Kiawah Island in his Desert Storm cap as if he was going to war rather than just trying to win a golf match, Alliss came out with:
“I don’t mean to be patriotic, but I hope he gets stuffed!”
Aside from his personal accomplishments on the golf course and his brilliant work behind the microphone, Alliss helped raise a lot of money for charity during his life.
He and Alex Hay were not only fellow commentators for the BBC but firm friends. Alliss was there for Alex’s widow Ann when Alex died. He was also there for Alex’s sons when Ann passed away. As Alex’s son David wrote on Twitter:
“Peter was a great man & so kind to mum after we lost dad & kind to my brother & I when we lost mum RIP Peter Allis “memories are better than dreams.“
Listen to Alliss on Desert Island Discs, and watch his Golf Hall of Fame acceptance speech if you have some time. Along with Huggan’s brilliant obit, they provide wonderful insights into the man behind the microphone.
R.I.P. Peter Alliss, the Voice of Golf
#JustSaying: “Here was a golfer talking to golfers whilst golfers whose circumstances and emotions he understood golfed.” Alex Hay on Peter Alliss