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The Golf Channel's Jennifer Mills unplugged

Shane SharpBy Shane Sharp,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Golf Central just wouldn't be the same without her. She is Jennifer Mills, and she'll have you know that she's a heck of a golfer, a sports nut, and generally just in love with what she's doing. Part cover girl, part jock, Mills has been with the Golf Channel since its debut in 1995 and has no plans on leaving anytime soon.

Senior editor Shane Sharp sat down with the Greenville, S.C., native to talk about the important stuff.

Working for the Golf Channel and hosting Golf Central appears to be a dream job to all us outsiders looking in. Give me a reason it is and give me a reason it isn't.

I would definitely say it's a dream job. I get to do what I love all week long. If you love golf, love travel and love watching the best players in the world play the game, then it is a dream job. As far as the flip side, it 's the craziness of the schedule. Trying to balance being a mother with the demands of the Golf Channel is difficult, but I am managing. And people see me on TV interviewing Tiger and Annika, but the flip side of that is that I had to travel a thousand miles to get there. Waking up in strange hotels and flight delays are a part of the job, too.

There's always a chance that journalists who cover the NBA, NFL or NHL never played the sports they cover at a competitive or even recreational level. Is it safe to say that most golf journalists play the game and take it pretty seriously?

Every golf writer I know wants to play more, play better and is passionate about golf. All the writers I know are trying to sneak out and get a round in just like the next guy. I know very few golf journalists who were actually competitive players in college or high school. There's an old boy network with these golf writers. When I first started I think it shook things up a bit. Now you see a few more females hanging out in the crowd.

The word on the street is that you are a pretty good stick in your own right. Tell me one thing about the game that you love, and one thing that you detest.

I will reverse that question. I hate to lose money to someone on the golf course. I have been an athlete my entire life and I hate to lose. I am working on breaking the single-digit handicap barrier right now and that is looking good so far. I am working with Scott Sacket and he is just incredible. What I love about the game is winning the money and the competition. As a player, I love to get out and walk a golf course. Carts are a crime and it is a shame that we have to use them.

Sounds like it's all about the money.

Oh, I guess it did sound that way. It is more about winning and losing.

Which Golf Channel personality has the most game?

Rich Lerner is the top player among on-air personalities, if you are looking for a score. He plays to about a 4- or 5-handicap. Tom Nettles and Kelly Tilghman would be next. Brian Hammons will tell you that he drives the ball 400 yards, and he can. But ask him what his score on the hole was. We have a good camaraderie here, we just don't all have the chance to go out and play together.

Do you miss (former Golf Central anchor turned ESPN SportsCenter anchor) Scott Van Pelt?

Totally. I still talk to him all the time. He brought something unique to the Golf Channel. His humor and off the cuff nature is perfectly suited to SportsCenter, though. He's happier because he is so passionate about all sports. He left me a message after that (ESPN) commercial where he gets out of Rich Beem's trunk and told me he couldn't move for a week. Scott is like 6-foot-5 so I don't know how he fit in there.

You've got one month to play as much golf as you can, wherever you want to play before your love for the game is surgically removed and replaced with a rare bowling chromosome. Where do you go? Which courses do you play?

I go to Ireland first and play Royal County Down. I would play around Ireland for two weeks. Then I would come back to the U.S. for two weeks and play out in the Monterrey Peninsula at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. I would work my way back to Florida and play Seminole and then I would work my way back home to the Carolinas, first stopping at East Lake in Atlanta. In North Carolina I would play Forsyth in Winston Salem, an old Donald Ross course, and then I would head over to Greenville to play at the Cliffs. As long as my last round was with my dad. He is my favorite golf partner.

You grew up in the Carolinas, first in Greenville, S.C. and later in Winston Salem, N.C. where you attended Wake Forest. Knowing what you do about golfing in both states, if one of them had to disappear into the Atlantic Ocean, which should it be?

With all due respect to North Carolina, I would have to let it go. My family is in South Carolina and so are most of my memories. I would miss North Carolina. This is a wishy-washy answer because I love the mountain courses and I love the Low Country courses. People don't realize you can get it all under the umbrella of two states. Everyone knows about Myrtle Beach but they don't know about the hidden gems out there.

How much interaction do you have with PGA Tour players? Who is so down to earth, he could be the guy next door rolling putts in his garage in between bottles of Miller High Life?

I have lots of interaction with players. The second question is easy. Ernie Els. He is the nicest guy you will ever meet. He is low key, doesn't take himself seriously, but he is ultra competitive. He is a terrific family guy, he always has a good joke and I just think the world of him. He will talk to anyone who talks to him. He handles questions so beautifully. Number two would be Nick Price. He is so down to earth. With Americans, Brad Faxon is a great guy. All in all, they all realize what they do for a living is golf and they are in a good mood until they make bogey.

The obligatory Annika Sorenstam question.

I could not be happier about what she is doing. Not in a women's lib sense, but in the sense that it will encourage more women to play in general. The number one reason more women don't play is because they are scared of disrupting the man's world. It really ticks me off when the casual fan jumps all over her for what she is doing. They don't know her and her reasons for doing it. I think she will make the cut and will finish top 40. She is not out there to make a statement, it is a competition thing for her. I think the world of her and I think she will be great. Hey, it is also great fodder for us to talk about.

You will win $1 million if one of the following players of your choice can sink a 30-foot chip shot from the cabbage 10-feet below the hole: Tiger, Phil, or Ernie. Who do you pick?

Phil has the great short game, but Tiger is just money. And I have a good feeling that I would have $1 million in my pocket after he hit that shot. If it was a bunker shot, I would go with Ernie.

You were recruited to play basketball at Wake Forest, covered some college basketball before coming to the Golf Channel, and still consider yourself a sports nut. First, who wins the ACC this season and second, give us your Final Four.

Wake Forest gets the nod in the ACC. For the Final Four, I am going to keep Wake in there because I am just dreaming. I think Duke might rally and you can't leave out Kentucky and Arizona the way they are handling opponents right now.

You are stuck in an elevator with Martha and Hootie. You can let one of them out but you are stuck with the other for three more hours. Who gets out, and who stays in?

Martha is out, Hootie is in. And I will have a little chat with Hootie about when women will get into August. That is all I better say about what is going to happen in the elevator.

What's in your CD player right now?

Frank Sinatra's Greatest Love songs in one and Norah Jones is in my other one.

What are your plans after this interview?

I plan on logging on to TravelGolf.com, what else?

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Tiger Criticism

    Jerry Collins wrote on: Aug 23, 2013

    How many of the announcers have played back their presentations? They try to give you the impression they know so much about golf but, present only the criticism of Tiger Woods as if he is the only one having a bad round, bad shot, is the only player cursing and his use (their estimation) the wrong club. If their capabilities or records were even a blip on his records, they might have a reasonable description of his play. They make you want to turn down the sound and we need to hear what is happening rather than their feeling about his playing.