ORLANDO, Fla. -- The list of reasons to wake up to television’s only live morning golf show got longer with today’s announcement that Golf Channel’s popular Morning Drive will re-launch on Feb. 4 with a new format, a new cast of co-hosts, state-of-the-art studio and an expanded, seven days a week schedule.
“If you love golf, Morning Drive has become the way to start your day,” said Mike McCarley, President of Golf Channel. “In just two years, the show has become weekday appointment viewing for those who share a passion for the game and on the few weekends when Morning Drive has aired, Golf Channel has seen a three-fold increase in ratings. This move to seven days a week, with a new set and new additions to the cast will allow us to engage in a broader range of topics covering all aspects of the game and give viewers a reason to wake up with Morning Drive every day of the week.”
NEW AND EXPANDED CO-HOST TEAM:
By expanding to seven days each week, the new Morning Drive cast naturally is going to grow. Current Morning Drive co-hosts Gary Williams, Damon Hack and Holly Sonders will be joined by Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer to form the on-air “foursome” typically covering Thursdays through Mondays. Williams, Hack and Sonders have been the regular co-host team of Morning Drive over the past few months and will build upon that camaraderie. Rymer will bring his exuberance for the game to the morning, in addition to his continued work as an analyst for Golf Central.
Longtime Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman will be a central figure mid-week on Morning Drive, typically on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tilghman will continue to be an anchor for Golf Central and a central figure of Golf Channel’s Live From coverage of the biggest events in golf. Matt Ginella comes to Morning Drive after 11 years as the travel editor for Golf Digest magazine. Ginella has garnered a keen sense for what makes a golf course a destination for golfers of all tastes and will be co-host throughout the week. And Lauren Thompson, who has been a regular contributor to the show, now will have a permanent role, providing news updates and reports for midweek shows.
Several regular contributors and guest hosts include:
- Emmy Award-winning sports broadcaster, Ahmad Rashad, headlines as a new guest host. A former All-Pro wide receiver, college football Hall of Famer and 25-year network veteran with ESPN, ABC, NBC and NBA TV – and a voracious golfer – Rashad will bring a unique perspective.
- John Cook is an 11-time PGA TOUR winner and recent champion of the 2013 Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the Champions Tour. The 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team member will join the show during some of the biggest weeks on the golf calendar.
- Hall-of-Famer Annika Sorenstam will continue to make weekly Morning Drive appearances, providing insight into the professional ranks to the amateurs, and sharing her passion on growing the game.
- Other Golf Channel analysts and reporters also will continue to contribute to Morning Drive on a daily basis, both in studio and on location at various tournaments. Golf World’s Tim Rosaforte will continue to appear weekly on the show; analyst Brandel Chamblee will regularly set up that day’s tournament action on weekends; and Golf Channel on NBC’s Jimmy Roberts will be a frequent contributor in support of his new series, In Play with Jimmy Roberts.
Since Morning Drive’s debut in January 2011, the show has become appointment viewing for viewers seeking the latest golf news and information, as well as expert analysis and discussion about all things golf. The show’s new format will continue to set the table for what’s new each day in professional golf, while expanding its scope to cover the golfing lifestyle including how to play, what to play and where to play. Resident Golf Channel experts and show guests will cover such topics as trends in golf equipment, the hottest travel destinations for golf and the latest fashions turning heads on the course.
Morning Drive’s daily polls and interaction with the show’s loyal audience will be conducted through social media, as well as themed weeks exploring unique aspects of golf.
Viewers can take Morning Drive with them via a “Best of” highlight podcast hosted by Sonders available online each afternoon and the series’ audio will continue to be streamed live at GolfChannel.com/MorningDrive.
Morning Drive is moving into a new, state-of-the-art studio for the re-launch on Feb. 4. The studio features four dedicated sets: a main anchor desk, an interview area, a product demonstration area and a news update desk. The new home is nearly four times larger than the show’s original studio.
Panoramic, high-definition video backdrops throughout the studio will make viewers feel like the Morning Drive cast is broadcasting from just inside the picture windows of their local clubhouse. This signature Morning Drive look is accomplished by linking 20 90-inch and 10 52-inch monitors to create golf course morning vistas.
Morning Drive’s production team is led by coordinating producer Jeff Neubarth, producers Kyle Brown and Bill Hentschel, and directors Charlie Reynolds and Eric Rutledge. For Golf Channel, Molly Solomon is executive producer, Geoff Russell is executive editor and Mike McCarley is president.
MORNING DRIVE TALENT BIOS
Professional golfer, John Cook, is an eleven-time winner on the PGA TOUR, was a member of the 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team and won the 1978 U.S. Amateur. He was ranked in the top 10 for 45 weeks between 1992-’93 and currently plays on the Champions Tour. Most recently, Cook won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in January 2013.
Matt Ginella joins Morning Drive as Golf Channel’s new travel expert where he will appear regularly with discussions on travel trends, his favorite trips and overall news regarding golf travel. Ginella comes from Golf Digest where he served as the senior travel editor and penned the blog “Where’s Matty G?” and orchestrated “Golf Digest Ambush,” where unsuspecting golf outings got a major makeover.
Damon Hack joined Golf Channel in 2012 and can be seen on-air on various shows including Golf Central, Morning Drive and Grey Goose 19th Hole. Hack will also contribute regularly to GolfChannel.com. Hack comes to Golf Channel from Sports Illustrated where he covered golf and the NFL. Before joining the magazine, he covered golf and the NFL for The New York Times and golf and the New York Knicks for Newsday.
Emmy® Award-winning sportscaster Ahmad Rashad is a former college and pro football star who was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. He is a four-time Pro-Bowl selection for the Minnesota Vikings, and was voted to the Vikings All-Time 25th Anniversary Team and their 40th Anniversary Team. Currently hosting for NBA TV, Rashad has covered a wide spectrum of sports for NBC, ABC and ESPN across his career. Rashad is an avid golfer, who plays with a who’s who of sports and Hollywood foursomes.
Charlie Rymer treats fans to his quick wit and “down home” humor as a studio analyst for Golf Central and the network’s Live From telecasts from golf’s major championships and premier events. A former PGA TOUR professional and a two-time All-American golfer at Georgia Tech, Rymer’s 15-year broadcast career includes 10 years at ESPN and USA Network before joining Golf Channel. In 2008, Rymer joined the network as a cast member on Road Trip: Myrtle Beach, an original series that focused on Myrtle Beach, S.C. as a golfing destination, and also co-hosted Big Break: Prince Edward Island alongside Stina Sternberg. Rymer joined Golf Channel as a full-time studio analyst in 2009.
Holly Sonders joined Golf Channel in January 2011 as a co-host for Morning Drive. In 2012, Sonders has an increasing role in Golf Channel’s instruction franchises, where she contributes to The Golf Fix, joined Martin Hall as co-host of School of Golf and hosts Playing Lessons. Sonders was a four-year member of the Michigan State Women's Golf Team and helped the Lady Spartans to a Big Ten Championship in 2007.
Lauren Thompson joined Golf Channel in 2009 as host of Top 10, a Golf Channel original series that provides an entertaining and informative review of controversial and compelling stories in golf. In addition to Top 10, Thompson hosts the network’s travel documentary series, GolfNow, and is a weekly contributor to Morning Drive.
A member of Golf Channel’s original cast and one of the network’s most versatile anchors, Kelly Tilghman serves as show host for the network’s PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour coverage and play-by-play host for the network’s PGA TOUR broadcasts. She also co-anchors Golf Channel’s signature news program, Golf Central, as well as Live From telecasts from golf’s major championships and premier events. In 2007, Tilghman became the first full-time female play-by-play commentator in the history of the PGA TOUR when Golf Channel embarked on its 15-year contract as the TOUR’s exclusive cable home.
Gary Williams joined Golf Channel as a co-host for Morning Drive when the morning news series first launched in January 2011. In 2012, Williams’ on-air responsibilities expanded to include live tournament coverage for select tournaments and serving as host for On the Range, a weekly news and informational show that gives viewers an inside look at players’ preparations on the various professional golf tours. Williams came to Golf Channel from Sirius/XM Satellite Radio where he served as a lead host on PGA TOUR Network.
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About Golf Channel
As the fastest-growing network on television, Golf Channel is a multimedia, golf entertainment and services company based in Orlando, Fla. The Golf Channel cable network, co-founded by Arnold Palmer in 1995 and part of the NBC Sports Group, is available in more than 120 million homes worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies. As part of the NBC Sports Group, professional golf coverage on NBC is branded “Golf Channel on NBC,” further extending the Golf Channel brand to NBC’s broadcast audiences. Exclusive partnerships with the world’s top tours allow Golf Channel to feature more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, added to a programming schedule distinguished by golf’s best news, instruction and original programming. Golf Channel’s digital platform of businesses is led by www.GolfChannel.com, a leading golf destination on the Internet, delivering unmatched coverage of the world of golf, as well as services that help the recreational player with how to play, what to play and where to play golf.
Golf Channel Communications