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First television broadcast of Par-3 puts families, fun in focus

Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Steven Uhles
Staff Writer

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Augusta Chronicle watched the first Par-3 Contest broadcast from inside the ESPN trailer. Here's a behind-the-scenes look:

ESPN, in partnership with CBS, broadcast its first coverage of the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday. An introduction featured Masters champions Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

(Michael Holahan/Staff)

Seven ESPN employees squeeze behind terminals in an area only a little larger than the interior of a full-sized SUV.

On one wall, television feeds showing the Par-3 Course, piped in from a small village of similarly outfitted trailers on the other side of the course, offer the only real illumination in the small room.

All eyes are on the feed, cutting segments from the unfolding action. Further along, in another equally cramped compartment, editors are taking the clips and shaping them into components for the network's first broadcast of the Par-3 Contest.

An introduction is constructed, featuring Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player teeing off. The broadcast won't go live for another half-hour, but work on the broadcast began months ago.

Joalin Goff, an ESPN operation producer, was in charge of the setup. The feed works without a hitch because of her. An off-site editing suite is operational because of her. Although her piece of the puzzle goes largely unheralded, she said there's reward in the public response.

"The real interest I've seen is from the public," she said shortly before the show went live. "People are excited, excited to see coverage of this event."

As the broadcast goes live, conversation immediately turns to small corrections. One voice in the darkness says the wrong graphic is being used. For the most part, however, the feedback is positive.

The show, broadcast in partnership with CBS, bears many of the hallmarks of a traditional Masters Tournament broadcast, while focusing on the lighter aspects of the Par-3 Contest. Considerable time is given to the children who often caddie, and sometimes putt.

Before the commercial break, a short ESPN-produced segment airs. The piece, one of 17 produced for the broadcast, features golfers talking about the Par-3 and a montage of children participating on the course.

Julie McGlove, managing producer of creative content, said the pieces were important for selling the theme of family and children.

"Par-3 is actually easier to work on because it is so much more relaxed," she said. "It also helped that this broadcast was about kids."

As the broadcast progressed, Mike McQuade, ESPN vice president of event production, entered the trailer.

A veteran of several Masters and a fan of the Par-3 Contest, McQuade said success means communicating the event's special atmosphere to a TV audience. He said Blackberry balloting seems to indicate success.

"What's this been on, maybe an hour?" he said. "I had 50 e-mails just in the first 10 minutes."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

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