Sports Outside the Beltway

1959 PGA Champion and Golf announcer Bob Rosburg dead at 82

He died at age 82 after falling in Indio California.

Rosburg or ‘Rossie’ as he was nicknamed was the 1959 PGA Champion and came one shot short of a playoff at the 1969 US Open. He may have been Scott Hoch before Hoch was. Rossie missed a short putt on eighteen to tie.

Fifty years removed from his major championship triumph, Rosburg is best known to the casual golf fan for his work on television broadcasts. I don’t critique the announcers very often(or very well) but remember what my father said about Rosburg. Some chip or pitch is always ‘an impossible shot’.

Golf Observer’s Sal Johnson wrote a long tribute(I posted some of it below) up to Rosburg and I suggest all of your read it. RIP Rossie.

Bob Rosburg, who became more famous as a commentator for ABC Sports than as a major champion, died Thursday morning. “Rossie” had been battling cancer for the last year and a half, but the cause of death was a head injury suffered in a fall coming out of a restaurant in Indio, Calif. He was 82.

Rosburg won six times on the PGA Tour, the highlight being his victory at the 1959 PGA Championship. Instead of becoming a club pro in the mid-1970s, when his PGA Tour days were over, Rossie turned to television. He had dabbled in TV during the late 1950s and ’60s, but when ABC hired him in 1974 Rosburg took on a special assignment. He became golf’s first truly on-course announcer.

The idea to have an announcer walk with players was hatched by Roone Arledge, the head of ABC Sports, and golf producer Chuck Howard. Their first stab at on-course commentary involved Bud Palmer, who was stationed on a tower behind the 15th hole were he did commentary until the last group past his hole. He then put on some special gear and would pick up the final group and follow them in. Palmer was a very capable announcer, but he was a fish out of water in terms of on-course analysis. Howard quickly realized that the job needed to be handled by a player. He was hunting for a special player and Steve Reid, who was the television coordinator between ABC and the PGA Tour told him about Rosburg. He interviewed for the job and got it. In talking with Howard 20 years later, he said that Rossie was just what they wanted because he knew the players, so they didn’t feel it was intrusive when he looked over their lies and assessed the circumstances for viewers. Rosburg figured out early that his job was to tell what kind of lie a player had, what kind of shot that player had to execute, what the conditions were, and how well the player succeeded. Rosburg perfected the art of the roving announcer, thus paving the way for Judy Rankin, Roger Maltbie, David Feherty, Mark Rolfing and others.

Rosburg was with ABC for 31 years, making him the longest serving active golf announcer on television. He didn’t do much work for ABC after 2000, but the network did make sure he was aboard for their last PGA Tour telecast, the Tiger Woods Target Challenge in December 2006.

Rossie was a renown story teller. As a Tour player, he competed against and socialized with Ben Hogan, Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Dave Marr and Raymond Floyd. When Rosburg first came on Tour, he became friendly with Hogan and played a lot of high stakes practice rounds with Hogan and Claude Harmon.

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