Meet Golfer Kelly Tilghman

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:9/8/2014

If you’ve paid any attention to Tiger Woods over the past 15 years – and who hasn’t? – then you no doubt have seen and heard Golf Channel broadcaster Kelly Ti​lghman, from all angles.

In 2008, the North Myrtle ​Beach native suffered 15 minutes of infamy when she jokingly suggested on-air that PGA Tour players desperate to beat Woods should “take him into a back alley and lynch him.” The resulting furor lost steam when Woods said he knew she misspoke and took no offense. Then in November 2009, after Woods’ infamous car wreck and revelations of his extra-marital affairs became public, Tilghman was one of two reporters able to get Tiger to talk on camera.

Little wonder, then, that Tilghman liked U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples’ selection of Woods over PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley for November’s matches in Australia – unlike others, including International Team captain Greg Norman.

“Tiger hasn’t shown any kind of form in two years,” she said, “but I look at his Presidents Cup record and it’s pretty darn good. Match play is a different animal, and I think Fred knows what he’s doing.”

There’s more to Tilghman, though, than standing in Woods’ spotlight. As the first female to co-anchor Golf Channel’s coverage of the PGA Tour, which began in 2007, she has served on the front lines of professional golf. With that comes perspective – and opinions about the state of the game.

“Aside from Tiger’s attempt to recover from his fall, the story of (2011) is Rory (McIlroy)’s rise,” Tilghman said. “Right there with it is the domination of Luke Donald around the world,” a storyline she believes has gone largely unnoticed in the U.S.

“Golf was dominated by Tiger for more than 15 years, and I think the American audience was spoiled by his glamour and superstar sheen,” she said. “Luke is a ‘silent assassin.’ … The European players have owned the stage the last two seasons, and they’re not ready to give it up.”

Growing up in North Myrtle Bea​ch, Tilghman played in S.C. Junior Golf Association events, as did her Golf Channel co-worker (and Fort Mill native) Charlie Rymer. After college and a five-year professional stint, she joined the all-golf network, and has seen it grow exponentially in her 15 years.

“This has been an exciting year for Golf Channel in many ways,” she said. “We’ve benefited from the merger with NBC and it’s wonderful to partner with them at big events,” including the Players Championship and U.S. Open.

“I was asked to speak recently about Golf Channel. I told (the audience) in 1996 we were in 100,000 homes; now we’re in 120 million, and we’re just scratching the surface. I’m very proud to see where we are today.”

Along the Grand Stra​nd, they’re proud of where Tilghman is, too.

Hometown: North Myrtle ​Beach

Bio: Grew up in a family that owned a Grand Strand golf course for 22 years (a Myrtle Beach neighborhood, Tilghman Estates, is named for them); played collegiately at Duke and professionally from 1992-96 in Australia, Europe and Asia; joined Golf Channel in 1996, hosting various shows and its nightly news program, Golf Central; has co-anchored coverage of the PGA Tour since 2007.

Highlights: While at Duke, won the 1990 Lady Paladin Invitational; hosts GC’s coverage of golf’s four major championships; has been the announcer’s voice for Tiger Woods’ golf video games since 2009.

Where I play: “Growing up in Myrtle Beach, you could get on the Surf C​lub. There used to be a lot of public access; I don’t know about now. I grew up on the third tee, about wore that course out as a kid, absolutely love it. Otherwise, I recommend The Dunes (Golf & B​each) Club and Tid​ewater. The views at both are spectacular, and you can create all the difficulty you like by picking your tees, or just have a leisurely time, breathe the air and absorb the atmosphere.

“There are a number of courses in the Charleston ​area I played in my amateur days. The Country Club of Charl​eston was great, but that’s pretty private. Kiawah is a place I highly recommend to friends, all the courses there. And I really liked Wild Dunes’ Links C​ourse as a kid. At Hilt​on Head, I really love Ha​ig Point on Daufuskie Island, and Lo​ng Cove … and Harbour ​Town, gosh yeah, I really love that course; it suits me because I’m not the longest driver but I’m pretty accurate, and when my putter is on, I can have good rounds there.”

Where I eat: “I’ve got to start with the Calabash Seafood Hut on the Grand Strand. It’s a shack, a dive, but it is awesome. The catch is fresh every day and goes right onto the grill. In North Myrtle Beach, Hamburger Heaven has really great burgers – veggie, turkey, whatever you want they can do. And the lady who runs it is a former Myrtle Beach High player, and my school (North Myrtle Beach High) has a big rivalry with them. Plus you’ll have celebrity sightings there. It’s a really well-kept secret.

“Also right next to my old high school, there’s Stevens’ Oyster Roast on Highway 9 Alternate. You can wear shorts in there but it’s a more sit-down place. To be honest, though, when I go home, I’m eating my mom’s cooking.

“In Charles​ton, I recommend Magnol​ia’s, which is fine dining. And at Hilton Hea​d – I went there for the first time this year – there’s a Mexican place, Santa Fe, and a steakhouse, Frog Hollow Tavern, that are just awesome.”

What I do for fun: “Growing up, I’d always go deep-sea fishing with my (late) dad. We’d go as far as 70 miles out, coming out of the jetty by Bird Island. I liked to water ski in the Intracoastal Waterway, and surfing at the beach – I was pretty water-oriented. I also did the waterslides as a kid; one I liked, Hawaiian Rapids, that’s gone now. We kind of avoided the tourist scenes growing up, but yeah, I played a lot of putt-putt golf. My family owned one from the time I was 3-4 years old until I was 12, and I wore those out.”

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