‘Bones’ drops the bag and picks up the mike

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TOD LEONARD

On the golf course and at din­ner for the past 27 years, PGA Tour cad­die Jim “Bones” Mackay was au­di­tion­ing for a new job. He just didn’t know it.

Heaven knows there is plenty of time to eat and swap sto­ries when you’re in the tour’s trav­el­ling cir­cus, and Mackay be­came good friends with nu­mer­ous peo­ple on the tele­vi­sion side — most notably long­time NBC and Golf Chan­nel pro­ducer Tommy Roy.

Roy would sit and lis­ten at din­ner to Mackay’s fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights and sto­ries of what it’s like to be inside the ropes with one of the world’s top play­ers, Phil Mick­el­son, and at some point it oc­curred to him that this was ex­actly the kind of stuff he needed on the air.

On-course com­men­tat­ing has been al­most ex­clu­sively the realm of re­tired for­mer play­ers, but cad­dies have just as much ex­pe­ri­ence in an­a­lyz­ing a course. Prob­a­bly more. That’s why Roy jumped at the chance to hire Mackay for broad­cast­ing duty when it was an­nounced Mick­el­son and his cad­die were split­ting af­ter 25 years and 41 PGA Tour vic­to­ries to­gether.

A deal was quickly struck, and Mackay makes his de­but in the new job this week for NBC and Golf Chan­nel’s cov­er­age of the Bri­tish Open at Royal Birk­dale, which be­gins Wed­nes­day night Pa­cific time.

Re­call­ing the din­ners he’s had with Mackay through the years, Roy said on a re­cent con­fer­ence call: “The con­ver­sa­tion rarely was about Bones and Phil and their lit­tle my­opic world. It was al­ways big­ger pic­ture and sto­ry­lines of what was hap­pen­ing in the event — which struck me that Bones thinks like a pro­ducer.

“Those things take time to get in­grained in you, to be think­ing like a pro­ducer, and he al­ready has that. So that was an­other huge at­tribute, not only is he a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor, but he thinks like a pro­ducer.

“He al­ready has ideas, which we’re not go­ing to give away here on this call. But he’s al­ready pre­pared with other ideas of what he can bring to the tele­cast, which I so much ap­pre­ci­ate and am so glad that he’s on the team.”

Roy also was in the unique po­si­tion in the pro­duc­ers’ truck, thanks to sen­si­tive mi­cro­phones, to hear more of the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Mick­el­son and Mackay than most tele­vi­sion view­ers. Ev­ery­one could see how ver­bal and demon­stra­tive the dis­cus­sions were be­tween the two.

“I was able to fig­ure out that Bones is a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor,” Roy said, “and that’s the No. 1 at­tribute of any an­nouncer; you’ve got to be a great com­mu­ni­ca­tor; so Bones has that.”

Aside from get-to­geth­ers with Roy, Mackay got his first real taste of com­men­tat­ing when Roy in­vited him and an­other long­time cad­die, John Wood, who is cur­rently work­ing for Matt Kuchar, to a try­out in ad­vance of the 2015 RSM Clas­sic in St. Si­mons Is­land, Ga.

“That re­hearsal went un­be­liev­ably well, and we had them on the air, and these guys were fab­u­lous,” Roy said. “Just blew me away.” There was only one hitch. “I had to get on Bones (be­cause) the en­tire time he was chew­ing on gum dur­ing on-cam­eras,” Roy re­called with a laugh. “So from now on, we ix­nay the gum.”

Re­mark­ably con­sci­en­tious and hard work­ing through the years, Mackay ad­mits he wants to im­prove on vir­tu­ally every­thing.

“I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve got so much to learn,” he said. “I’m go­ing to be the guy both­er­ing a lot of peo­ple with a lot of ques­tions.

“Hope­fully, with the knowl­edge I’ve picked up in the last 27 years and with the re­la­tion­ships I have out there, that I’ve got some­thing in­ter­est­ing and con­cise to say, and I can’t wait to get at it.”

Mackay said he grew up as a “golf rat,” watch­ing tele­casts from start to fin­ish and por­ing over ev­ery page in the golf mag­a­zines to soak up in­for­ma­tion.

“I love watch­ing those guys do their thing and the whole au­ton­omy of words and all that,” he said.

Mackay in­sisted he’s not go­ing to miss his old job be­cause he’s still go­ing to be a part of the ac­tion. Typ­i­cal of a cad­die, he said, “I can toss the oc­ca­sional divot back to the guys and help them in that re­spect.”

Roy re­minded Mackay of one very big up­side to his new gig: “A tour bag weighs about 45 pounds and one of our mi­cro­phones is, like, one pound.

“Amen, brother,” Mackay said.

CHAR­LOTTE OB­SERVER FILE PHOTO

Jim “Bones” Mackay will make his de­but as a course re­porter for NBC on Thurs­day at the Bri­tish Open.

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