NBC Sports broadcaster Gary Koch returning to competitive golf at U.S. Senior Open

Legendary NBC Sports golf broadcaster Gary Koch, who played in the U.S. Open 17 times as a pro and called 22 more on television, will tee it up at the U.S. Senior Open this week at Newport Country Club.

He made it to Rhode Island via sectional qualifying in what will mark his U.S. Senior Open debut.

“One of the reasons I got into television in my 40s is because I figured out it’s a lot easier to talk about some guy making a six-foot putt than me doing it,” Koch said Wednesday before the tournament.

“You’re hoping as a broadcaster to be able to communicate to the viewer hopefully what the player is thinking or maybe the game plan they’ve put together, or we read comments they make about how they’re trying to play the golf course. We spend a lot of time on the golf course, even as broadcasters, checking out the conditions. So I would say there are some similarities, no doubt. But talking about it is a lot easier than doing it.”

Koch has not played competitively since 2018, when he tied for 50th at The Senior Open. Despite that, he arrives in the Ocean State with plenty of confidence and with good reason. Koch, now 71, admitted that he has shot his age at least 100 times, first doing so after he turned 62.

“The reality is I just don’t play much competitive golf anymore,” Koch said.

Jay Monahan, Gary Koch, PGA Tour, Tour Championship

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan presents Gary Koch with the 2023 Payne Stewart Award ahead of the Tour Championship.
Photo by Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images

“On my good days, I should be able to go around this place and post a respectable score. I’m not sure what a respectable score would be based on the conditions. I would say realistically, if I can make the cut and play all four days, then I’ve probably accomplished something I’d be very proud of.”

As long as Koch can keep it in play, he should have a chance to make the weekend.

But the competition within the competition will come down to the battle between broadcasters. Koch’s fellow NBC Sports colleague, Notah Begay III, will also tee it up this week. Koch and Begay III recently called the action at Pinehurst No. 2, where Bryson DeChambeau won his second U.S. Open title.

“I’m sure there will be a little wager on who’s low announcer,” Koch joked.

“But he’s also a lot younger than I am. He probably should give me a few strokes.”

Begay III, who played alongside Tiger Woods at Stanford in the mid-1990s, is 20 years younger than Koch but primarily works as an analyst for NBC Sports.

Nevertheless, the beauty of golf—and this championship, for that matter—is that anyone can play, despite their age. A golfer’s score does not discriminate, as it all depends on who can get the ball into the hole the fastest.

“As I look back over my life of golf, the [United States Golf Association (USGA)] and their competitions have been a huge part of that, no doubt about it,” Koch reflected.

“The very first one was in 1968, the USGA Junior at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. I was 15 years old. So here we are 56 years later, getting to compete in another USGA Championship. I can’t think of any other sport where something like that could happen.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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