TV analyst Stupples back on course as player this week
Karen Stupples habitually waved to the cheering gallery two weeks ago in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Only this time, the English player was working as an on-course announcer for Golf Channel and the cheers were for the players walking behind her on the 18th hole.
”Crossing the bridge, you have the gallery on the right and Poppie’s Pond on the left, and everybody is clapping,” Stupples said. ”My gut instinct was to wave. So, that was weird.”
It won’t be weird this week in Hawaii when the 40-year-old Englishwoman returns to play in the LPGA LOTTE Championship. Her enthusiasm for the game recharged by her new broadcasting job, she’s making her first tour start since late August.
”I still love the game of golf,” Stupples said. ”I thought I had lost that. I really did. A couple of years ago it was a real struggle for me to want to play golf or remembering why I loved it in the first place. Now, I’ve remembered why. It’s not about putting the score on the scorecard, but it turned into that.”
She did put some memorable numbers on scorecards 10 years ago when she won her two LPGA Tour titles. In the 2004 opener in Tucson, Ariz., she shot 63 in the first and fourth rounds and broke the tour’s 72-hole record with a 258 total. In the Women’s British Open at Sunningdale that summer, she began the final round eagle-double eagle en route to a 64 and a five-stroke victory.
”What appealed to me is that she is a major champion and also has been playing a full schedule on the LPGA Tour,” said Jack Graham, Golf Channel vice president of live tournaments. ”She wanted to make the commitment to put in the work to learn the ropes in televised golf and is doing a very good job at that.”
Stupples won a Ladies European Tour event in 2009 in Wales and helped Europe win the 2011 Solheim Cup, but she struggled to contend the past few years. Last season on the LPGA Tour, she made seven cuts in 18 starts and her season best was a tie for 38th.
”When I was playing poorly, I was worried about the score and the money and everything else,” Stupples said. ”When I stopped having that worry because of the (TV) job, it enabled me to remember it’s about how I hit the ball, what I’m doing with the ball, how I’m maneuvering around the course – the chess game that is golf.”
Following the top players and leaders as an announcer has helped her own game.
”You see that they make mistakes,” Stupples said. ”It’s very easy to think that when you’re making mistakes back in the pack that you’re the only one making them. You think the leaders can’t possibly be making them. They’re making mistakes, too, but they’re just managing their games better.”
She first worked as a broadcaster on BBC’s radio coverage of the 2007 British Open.
”It was so much fun. I loved it,” Stupples said. ”It was just great hanging out with everybody and talking golf, being in the discussion and debate in the media center. I thought, `This is something I would really love to try to get into.”’
She worked some more big events for the BBC and asked Golf Channel last year at the Hawaii event if she could follow lead on-course commentator Jerry Foltz.
”I put ears on and tailed him around and watched what he did,” Stupples said.
Then, after missing the cut in Toledo, Ohio, she got a full trial following top-ranked Inbee Park — and nailed it.
”I got to do my first interview that week,” Stupples said. ”That was the most nerve-wracking thing in my life. I’d always been the one being interviewed.”
The former Florida State player also has does studio work for Golf Channel.
”She’s an absolute natural,” Foltz said. ”There’s an art to the job. It’s more than just calling golf shots.”