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PGA Tour debuts live show in Charlotte with colorful commentary

jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

For the first time, “PGA TOUR Live” is broadcasting from the Wells Fargo Championship, and John Maginnes is the announcer calling the action for viewers at home, in the office and on their phones.

“This is uphill the entire way and drifting right at the end,” Maginnes whispers into his wind-protected microphone after Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama hits a drive Thursday morning at Quail Hollow Club.

The show features live early-round coverage of two featured groups that start their day at 7 a.m. Thursday and Friday. The video stream, featured on a mobile app, Apple TV or computer, allows golf fans to tune in live to see coverage that might only be shown as highlights later in the day.

Maginnes acts as the eyes and ears for anyone watching.

“They can see the shot, they can see the people. They can’t feel the wind, and they can’t see the elevation change,” Maginnes says. “The thing about golf … it’s all about the slopes, and you can’t see them. The TV flattens everything out.”

Maginnes, a burly guy from Greensboro, is donning white Asics – he estimates he walks 5 to 6 miles a day when working a tournament – and a long-sleeved zip-up he had to buy at the last minute because he didn’t realize Charlotte would be so cold this time of year.

Along with Matsuyama, Maginnes followed Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler Thursday morning. They drew huge crowds, which is no wonder, since McIlroy has won the Wells Fargo Championship twice, most recently breaking a record in 2015.

The days are long – 7 a.m. until about 4 p.m., then coverage until around 7 p.m., of a “featured hole,” for the Wells tournament either hole 15 or 17, basically intended to show off the course.

It’s clear Maginnes isn’t fazed by the length of the day, though. He’s a former pro golfer himself who says he knew it was time to “stop playing and start talking” in 2003, when he lost a casual round of golf to Mac Everett and Kym Hougham, the Charlotte tournament’s chairman and director, respectively.

Maginnes entertains his viewers, as well as bystanders at the course.

“Rory said he didn’t play much after the Masters, and I believe it,” Maginnes says later in the morning as McIlroy’s shot lands in a sand trap. A small crowd of fans nearby chuckles.

The announcer had stints at PGA Tour radio, USA Network and the Golf Channel before “PGA TOUR Live” kicked off in January with the CareerBuilder Challenge in California. The Wells Fargo Championship is the 15th event of 31 scheduled for the year, which means many of the roughly 40 on-site people it takes to produce the show are on the road a lot.

Production of the show is an orchestra of sorts.

It takes nearly a day to set up the massive production truck that’s stocked with audio and video controls, TV screens and microphones, leaving little room to move around. Before each tournament begins, the cameramen and their assistants go over a choreographed play-by-play of where they should be at each hole.

Then from the production truck, parked near the Quail Hollow clubhouse, the show’s director, Mike Lacey, tells the eight wireless cameras out on the course what to do, like zoom out on a shot or focus in on a player’s hand.

Their feeds are fine-tuned live for qualities like brightness and color crispness, and the feeds are sent back instantly to the show’s facilities in St. Augustine, Fla., where the show is packaged with graphics and sound.

Because it’s live, the show will allow a Phil Mickelson fan, for example, to watch him tee off first thing Friday morning from the office instead of watching a highlight of him later that day.

“We don’t condone not working, though,” jokes Ed Waud, senior director of live TV and digital media.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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