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‘Like a warm, comforting blanket’: How Peter Alliss changed golf commentary

Among the sadness of Peter Alliss’s death is laughter as fans around the world reminisce the finer points of the Voice of Golf’s career. And he wouldn’t have it any other way, writes Alex Perry

 

“Carol Vorderman would have had her work cut out for the last few holes,” jokes Ken Brown as Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano’s scorecard appears on the screen.

“Carol Vorderman,” says Peter Alliss. “I like her. I was watching her the other day and I got aroused.”

He pauses and you slink back into your chair, desperate for anything to fill the deafening silence.

Finally, Alliss speaks again. “Seven letters,” he quips. “Not bad for someone who left school at 15.”

We all know the secret to a good joke is in the setup, the timing, and the delivery. When Alliss starts reminiscing about the former Countdown presenter, you fear for the worst.

Then he hits you square in the face with the punchline and a sense of relief akin to gasping for air after being underwater overwhelms you.

It tells you everything you need to know about the so-called Voice of Golf that, among the sadness and commiserations that filled social media on the news of his death at the age of 89, people couldn’t wait to share their favourite Allissisms.

The BBC’s chief golf commentator since 1978, Alliss found himself with his foot in his mouth on far too many occasions than we care to remember, but we would always forgive him the same way we forgive a grandparent for some casual racism. (Things were just different in their day, weren’t they?)

I still remember watching the Open as a youngster with my own grandfather and listening to him explain just how good Alliss was with a club in his hand.

And he was right. The internet tells me Alliss won more than 30 times as a professional, challenged in the Open on a handful of occasions, and played in eight Ryder Cups including that famous win at Lindrick in 1951.

But at the time I had no choice but to believe my dear old grandad. This was, of course, long before every ounce of information was readily available on a device in my pocket.

Alliss’s longevity was such that there are several generations, including my own, who will only remember him for his work behind the microphone. Indeed he has been the Voice of Golf for the entirety of my 38 years.

On a playing level we argue until we’re blue in the face about which of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods is the best of all time – incidentally, Alliss told the Independent in 2009 that he’s “probably the only person left in the world who thinks that Tiger won’t beat Jack’s record” – but when it comes to commentators, no one comes close.

Very few could tell a story, or find the smallest of incidents among the action and spin a fascinating yarn from it, the way he could.

He could make you cry tears of joy and tears of anguish in the same sentence and his voice – his beautiful, soothing voice – was like a warm, comforting blanket keeping us cosy as we watched the world’s best get beaten up by the weather often reserved for an Open Championship.

He was quite simply, as the kids say, the GOAT.

Peter Alliss: His finest moments

“My, my, it looks like a couple of Shetland ponies have been mating in there”

On one player’s botched attempt to get out of the Old Course’s famous Road Hole bunker

“Look at that. Faldo looks a young man again, and poor old Greg, well he looks ready for his bus pass”

On Nick Faldo beating Greg Norman to the 1996 Masters

Here he comes – the Queen Mother of golf. All he needs is a couple of corgis

On Gary Player’s arrival at the 18th green at the 2001 Open at Lytham

“What on earth are you doing? He’s gone ga-ga. To attempt to hit the ball out of there is pure madness”

On Jean van de Velde’s attempts to get out of Carnoustie’s Barry Burn at the 1999 Open

“It’s like turning up to hear Pavarotti sing and finding out he has laryngitis”

On Tiger Woods’ third-round 81 at the 2002 Open

“It would be very easy to drool with sentimentality. But, at the end of the day, it is simply two teams trying to knock seven bells out of each other, in the nicest possible way”

On the Ryder Cup

“One of the good things about rain in Scotland is that most of it ends up as scotch.”

On the weather in Scotland

“Looks a bit like Jurassic Park in there”

On the rough at the 2003 Open

What’s your favourite Peter Alliss memory? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet us.

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Alex Perry

Alex Perry

Alex has been the editor of National Club Golfer since 2017. A Devonian who enjoys wittering on about his south west roots, Alex moved north to join NCG after more than a decade in London, the last five of which were with ESPN. Away from golf, Alex follows Torquay United and spends too much time playing his PlayStation or his guitar and not enough time practising his short game.

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