Making the rounds with the Pro of 52nd Street
James Cusick meets Dave Marr, the authentic voice of television golf
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Monday 22 July 1996
Dave Marr's Texan drawl alongside the clubhouse classicism of Wing Commander Peter Allis is probably the best double act in television's attempt to convey the inner-sanctum drama of the Royal and Ancient game. After 21 years with ABC Television in the US, the BBC snapped up Marr four years ago. What they get for their money is streetwise sass. The American writer Dan Jenkins called Marr the "Pro of 52nd Street" - the tanned, beaming, resplendent double-breasted blazer professional complete with Gucci and Dunhill accessories who could mix with anything New York'snightlife could throw at him. He could also play golf - he won the US PGA title in 1965 - and he could play life, leaving the monastic and robotic existences to the other boring professionals of the 1960s.
Now aged 62, no longer the good-time pro who could down vodka martinis and hit classic five irons, he is nevertheless, tanned, beaming and when he talks you know you are being entertained.
With Sky Television's ubiquitous golf coverage having all the appropriateness of Fred Trueman commenting on a Royal Opera House performance, Marr instead has become the authentic voice of TV golf. His advice for any tour pro thinking of changing his game plan midway through a round is straight out of the Houston School of Homespun Philosophy: "You've got to dance with the one that brung you."
Marr says his last few years at the Beeb "have been one of the most pleasant experiences of my life. When I came to England they told me: 'Don't change anything - and don't try to make your accent sound English', so I just talk."
While Aliss delivers the tangential chit-chat of PG Wodehouse's oldest member and Alex Hay chips in with a tartan links philosophy that could have come out of a Burns collection, Marr is Damon Runyon: "Claude Harmon not only taught me most of what I know about the golf swing, he took me out of Argyll socks."
Marr is clearly enjoying the fact that others seem to enjoy him. "I think I've touched people in a nice way. I mean, you don't get carried away that you're doing the work of the Lord, but if it makes the audience a bit more entertained watching a golf show, then fine." When the Pro of 52nd Street, speaks, it's a lot more than fine.
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