What do Mickey Mantle, Wilt Chamberlain, Sugar Ray Leonard, Carl Lewis, Frank Shorter, Nadia Comaneci, Katerina Witt, Gale Sayers, Arnold Palmer, Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Costner, Charles Schultz, Rudy Giuliani, Alice Cooper, Don Knotts, Nancy Lopez, Dale Earnhardt, Evel Knievel, Sylvester Stallone, Picabo Street and Arthur Ashe have in common?
These very famous folks, along with hundreds of others, have all been interviewed by one of the top sports media personalities in the world.
Ann Liguori was the first woman to host a call-in sports show on WFAN Radio and continues as the station’s golf and tennis correspondent. She also covers golf and tennis for CBS Sports Radio and has a weekly radio show on the Southampton NPR affiliate WPPB.
Liguori is the host, executive producer and owner of “Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori,” which happens to be the longest-running cable sports show owned, hosted and produced by a woman, and is the first woman to host and produce a prime-time weekly series on Golf Channel. From her many interviews, Ann has written, “A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game.”
Liguori also writes a weekly column for cbslocal.com and has written for The Huffington Post and Hamptons.com.
Liguori has covered six Olympics and was only the fourth female in the 52-year history of the Bob Hope Classic to play as a celebrity golfer.
At last year’s Media Day for the Walker Cup, which was held at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, Liguori was in the foursome in front of me. Folks, the lady has game.
Liguori founded the Ann Liguori Foundation to raise money for cancer prevention and care and each year hosts the Ann Liguori Foundation Charity Golf Classic, which is held at a prestigious East End course, this year at Friar’s Head.
Not too shabby a résumé for a self-proclaimed “jockette” from Brecksville, Ohio.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Liguori, a Westhampton resident, at a number of golf events we both have covered, and asked if she would be kind enough to share a little about her life and career with the Golf Gazette.
Q. What sports did you play growing up?
A. In high school I earned varsity letters in volleyball, basketball, track and tennis, and played number one on the boys’ tennis team my senior year. I dabbled in golf, but really didn’t focus on learning the game until years after graduating from the University of South Florida.
Q. When did you realize you wanted to go into sports journalism?
A. When I was 3 years old watching the Ruth Lyons show. Even as a toddler I was impressed with all the fascinating guests she had. I was a broadcast journalism major in college. There was a female sports anchor at the time named Gayle Sierens. It was good to see a woman back then doing sports on television.
I earned a fellowship in New York City right out of college and met many of the movers and shakers in the broadcasting business. I then got a job as a production assistant at CBS Sports and worked on the “NFL Today” show. From there I launched my freelance career writing for USA Today and producing shows at ABC Sports Radio and HBO Sports. In 1989 I put together my own company, Ann Liguori Productions.
My first television interview for my cable series “Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori” was with Mickey Mantle.
WFAN Radio started in 1987 and I was asked to host a weekly sports talk show, which was titled, “Hey Liguori, What’s the Story,” which aired for over 23 years.
While doing that I hosted and produced a weekly series for the Golf Channel called, “Conversations with Ann Liguori” where I interviewed all kinds of celebrities while playing golf with them. I turned those interviews into a book, “A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game.”
Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?
A. Covering a variety of sports, interviewing fascinating people and I love to travel. I love the flexibility of being my own boss.
Q. Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
A. My parents, who always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. My father was genuinely interested in people and that gene was passed on to me. He passed away when I was a junior in college. My 22-year-old brother, Jim, died of leukemia the year I graduated from college. I was about to go to New York City but told Jim I would stay with him in Ohio until he got better. He looked me in my eyes and said, “Ann, go to New York and follow your dreams.” He passed away a week later. His encouragement and love stay with me to this day. My mom inspires me every day with her positive energy, strength and wisdom.
Q. What was the most challenging interview you have had?
A. The interview I did with Björn Borg. He didn’t say much and wasn’t willing to talk about anything.
Q. Who would you like to have interviewed that you haven’t?
A. The great college basketball legend, John Wooden. I adore interviewing good people with keen insight and wisdom. Coach Wooden was one of the best in all of those departments.
Q. What is the most memorable round of golf you’ve played?
A. I was invited to play in the 2011 Bob Hope Classic. I was the fourth female “celebrity” to ever play in the event. Each day the amateurs play with a different pro. I played with Brandt Jobe, Bubba Watson, Daniel Summerhays and Harrison Frazar. On the very last hole, after four days of playing in front of intense crowds and television coverage, Frazar helped me read a 45-foot putt. I drained it! I gained so much respect for these players, seeing how they manage their time and demands of that lifestyle, and win or lose, how they deal with it.
Q. If you had one last interview, who would it be?
A. It would be with a good person who has a positive message. There are too many terrible stories in the news every day and I feel I have a responsibility to enlighten, educate and inspire.
You can learn more about Ann Liguori by going to her website: annliguori.com
A HEALTHY SECRET
In my last column I promised you I would reveal golfer Gary Player’s four words for better health. Here they are: “Walk more, eat less.” Chew on that for a while.