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Prairie Dunes set for its TV moment at NCAA golf championships

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 29, 2014, at 7:56 p.m.

— Turn on the Golf Channel during the week of the U.S. Open or The Masters and you will find extensive coverage of each tournament.

The network shows highlights while experts and former professional golfers provide analysis. All of it can be found before, during and after each round of golf via a series of on-site shows. It’s around-the-clock coverage.

Expect the same when the NCAA men’s golf championships come to Prairie Dunes Country Club next month.

“It has never been done like this,” said Golf Channel producer of live golf Brandt Packer. “We will have a pregame show, we will have the live event and we will have the postgame show. We are treating this like a major. This is without a doubt one of our major championships, and it is only going to get bigger down the road. We want to make this the preeminent amateur event in golf.”

Television cameras have always been common at the NCAA championships, but not like this. The Golf Channel is taking coverage of the event to the next level. For the first time, a network will televise the tournament live. The shows preceding and following each round are also a new concept in the college ranks. Some days will feature as many as nine hours of live coverage.

The tournament is expected to receive more TV attention than previous events that have come through Prairie Dunes, including the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open.

“The Golf Channel coming on here is really what sets this tournament apart from any that we have hosted in the past,” said Prairie Dunes General Manager Scott Nelson. “We hope to put on a great show here.”

The NCAA championships will begin on May 23 with 30 teams and six players who advance from regional qualifying. The first three rounds will be stroke-play format. The Golf Channel will begin televising action May 26, when the top 40 individuals and ties will compete for medalist honors. The network will then televise all of the team match-play competition starting on May 27.

It is an unusual tournament format that fans of professional golf may not recognize, but that doesn’t bother the Golf Channel. For years, it has stayed away from college golf, because it thought only a small group of viewers cared about the sport.

But that thought process changed when young professional golfers such as Jordan Spieth started winning on the PGA Tour after brilliant college careers. Golf Channel executives are eager to start telling stories about up-and-coming players before they turn pro.

“I want to do this show more than any show that I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Golf Channel analyst Billy Ray Brown, “because I get the sense that it will take not only for me personally, it will take me back to a time, and watch when you see a group of guys come together as one, and really play together as one. From the get-go, I wanted to do this badly – really, really badly.”

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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