The broadcast of the ShopRite LPGA Classic is going to sound a little different this year. For the first time ever in a US golf television broadcast, you’ll only hear female voices this weekend. When you tune in to Golf Channel for the 54-hole tournament that starts on Friday, Cara Banks will host, with Judy Rankin working as analyst, Paige Mackenzie as the hole announcer, and Kay Cockerill and Karen Stupples doing on-course reporting. Beth Hutter will be producing.
While the other four women have worked in their respective roles on other broadcasts, Banks’ usual job is as an anchor on Golf Channel’s “Golf Central” and host of “Live From” tournament shows. She formerly served as co-host of the now-defunct “Morning Drive” after joining Golf Channel in 2015. Bank previously worked in the UK for Golfing World.
“I’m the rookie,” Banks is quick to admit. “I’m with a load of veterans who do this week in and week out. I feel ready personally and professionally to jump in the booth and have a go at doing this next step. I’m delighted and honoured that they have that confidence in me and do something that hopefully won’t be a one off and be something that we can do a lot more of because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do this.”
To make the experience all the more important to Banks, she’s pregnant while broadcasting, due in November with her and her husband’s second child, a girl.
Though the role is one she’s never done before, it is still hosting – which she had to explain to her dad.
“I’m the host here, I’m not the analyst. I had to explain this to my dad so many times,” Banks said, laughing. “He’s like, ‘Cara what are you going to say? How are you going to explain the golf shots?’ I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m not the pro. I just ask the question, I tee it up and leave it to the analysts’.”
In order to prepare, Banks did some shadowing at the US Women’s Open, and then came to Seaview’s Bay course and played it before the event.
“It’s exactly what I want to do,” Banks said. “It’s keeping me on my toes, throwing a new challenge at me.”
The ShopRite broadcast comes a year-and-a-half after NBC Sports broadcast the first all-female NHL game. In 2021, NBC also had the first female producer of the Indianapolis 500 and the first female producer on a Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes. The role matters to Banks in that broader context of female inclusion in sports television broadcasting, while also being important to her own professional growth.
“I think it’s great that it wasn’t me who pushed this,” Banks said. “The company realised this is something that we need to do and came to me with it. I think everyone is aware that there is no reason we shouldn’t have a woman in the booth, doing the play by play. I’ve always wanted to get there and haven’t really known how because we have really good talent on the men’s side.”
Banks said this first all-female golf broadcast comes with the hope that it’ll be the first of many.
PHOTO: Nick Valinote