Cara Banks likes the variety of sports she’s been able to broadcast since moving from her home base of England to the United States, but she says golf is her forte. This week, it will be her route to history.
Banks, who has worked for Golf Channel since 2014, will head the first all-women broadcast team to work a golf tournament beginning Friday at the ShopRite LPGA Classic at Seaview’s Bay Course in Galloway, N.J. She will be joined by analyst Judy Rankin, hole announcer Paige Mackenzie and on-course reporters Kay Cockerill and Karen Stupples.
“I think this is a long time coming,” Banks said recently. “We have such great talent. Kay’s kind of been the lone woman out there on a lot of the male broadcasts. There isn’t a prominent female voice on NBC Sports golf yet. So I am pumped. I can’t wait to grab it with both hands and have a go and hopefully do a good job.
“This has kind of been what I’ve been waiting to do, so I’m grateful they’ve asked me to do it. I guess we’ll see how the week goes and hopefully we’ll have some more. But the fact that this is the direction that the company is looking is huge, and the fact that we can actually do something so unique that has amazingly never been done in American golf television is great.”
The telecast, which will air on Golf Channel from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, will be produced by Beth Hutter, who this year became the first woman to produce the U.S. Women’s Open and the Tokyo Olympics golf competition.
A broadcast team of all women has been employed for other sports. Philadelphia native Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm did an NFL broadcast on Amazon Prime in 2018. Kate Scott, named the new play-by-play voice of the 76ers last week, led an all-women team for the first time on an NHL broadcast March 8, 2020.
There isn’t a prominent female voice on NBC Sports golf yet. So I am pumped. I can’t wait to grab it with both hands and have a go and hopefully do a good job.
Melanie Newman, who does play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles, joined analyst Sarah Langs and on-field reporter Alanna Rizzo last July on a YouTube game telecast.
More than golf
Banks, 36, began her career in sports broadcasting hosting “Golfing World” for Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, and her responsibilities included trips to the United States for PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events. After several years in that role, she was hired by Golf Channel in 2014, where she was one of the hosts of “Morning Drive,” a daily news and lifestyle program, and went on host “Live From…”, a discussion and interview show from tournament sites.
With Golf Channel under the NBC Sports umbrella, she has done a range of other sports.
“The journey with Golf Channel has been so good because of the NBC Sports relationship and there being so many more opportunities in NBC as well,” she said. “So I’ve been doing some of their skiing and some of their winter sports. I did keep going back and forth for Wimbledon when I first started. I just did my first Olympics hosting the NBCSN channel.
“I think it’s always nice to be able to keep a variety of things going, but golf will always be my niche.”
Banks said she sat in the booth last June during the U.S. Women’s Open telecast getting a sense of what the commentary team does and how the host guides the action. All four of her broadcast partners are former players with Rankin, 76, a member of the World Golf and LPGA Halls of Fame, having begun her career at the microphone in 1984.
“I fully appreciate I’m not the professional player here, so I’m not the analyst’s voice,” Banks said. “It’s setting them up for what we’re going to see; how do we hit that shot; what did they do wrong; the stuff that we as golf fans want to know. I’ve been in this sport and industry for long enough to have my own inquisitive questions so I’ll do the job that everyone sitting at home wants.”
Cockerill, a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, has been with Golf Channel since its inception in 1995. Stupples, who played on the LPGA Tour for 15 years, counts her career highlight as the 2004 Women’s British Open championship. McKenzie played a full LPGA schedule from 2006 through 2013.