Welcome to another edition of the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column dedicated to the people (and stories) behind the action you watch each week.
There are at least three people elbow-deep in preparation for Kathryn Tappen’s big move to NBC Golf. Kathryn Tappen … and her two parents.
Sheila and Richard Tappen are quite used to talking about their daughter — she’s a bit of a fixture back in her hometown of Morristown, N.J., and at her home club not far down the road, Mendham Golf and Tennis. Friends, neighbors and fellow members approach Sheila and Richard to ask about the couple’s daughter, the current do-everything on-air talent for NBC Sports, and they are overwhelmingly happy to oblige.
Over the years, Sheila and Richard have shared stories from Kathryn’s trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Super Bowl, and yes, even the Olympics — regaling their audience of the details and, naturally, sharing a hint of pride in their daughter. Yet nothing in Tappen’s eye-popping list of assignments quite compares to the one she is about to embark on, at least in Sheila and Richard’s eyes. And that is at least partially because nothing Tappen has ever done fits her parents quite as squarely as her newest gig: NBC Golf’s newest lead interviewer.
The Tappens are, in Kathryn’s own words, “a golf family.” They watch together, play together, and generally obsess together. They have for a long time, and now, they’re about to obsess a little bit more. Beginning at the Honda Classic in February 2022, Kathryn will be spending many of her days traveling with the big show, following NBC’s coverage of the PGA Tour, the USGA, and the Open Championship. She’ll be taking on a position vacated by Steve Sands, who will be transitioning into a larger play-by-play role, in addition to helping supplement Tappen as an interviewer when the situation dictates.
So, back in New Jersey, the two parents are preparing diligently for the boatload of attention sure to be thrust upon their daughter … and the outright onslaught of excitement coming for the two of them. It’s only fitting. Sheila is a golf fixture herself, extremely active in her membership duties, a regular on the Metropolitan Golf Association circuit, and (naturally) a former club champion. Richard is owed the honor of jump-starting his wife’s golf career, and he’s no slouch himself, keeping a handicap in the mid-teens.
“I told [my mom], I’m kind of nervous for you, because my parents already get a lot of attention when it comes to the assignments that I get to do. They get asked questions about my schedule and my routine,” Tappen told the Hot Mic. “It’s only gonna get 10,000 times worse, because everyone at the club is gonna want to know the inside scoop from every event.”
The inside scoop of Tappen’s new gig is, well, as cool as it sounds. She will travel with the NBC team beginning with the Florida Swing in February and continuing into the summer on the network’s biggest golf properties — the Players Championship, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and (she hopes), the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. In her new role, Tappen will handle interviews with players and other notable guests, steering conversations and helping to further report breaking news stories to the public. It’s something of a high-wire act — one Tappen has grown quite good at after years of work at NBC — and one that has already required a good deal of preparation.
The former NHL on NBC host is just the latest person exploring the overlaps between hockey and golf (though perhaps the only one without the stated goal of dropping her handicap), and thus far, she’s liked what she’s seen. She’s in the midst of a golf TV crash course, fresh off a few days in Houston learning the lay of the land alongside the golf production crew, led by Tommy Roy. Tappen has also tapped into the wealth of talent surrounding her in her current day-to-day at NBC, leaning on the golf advice of a few industry veterans.
“Mike Tirico told me, ‘Well, you definitely won’t be working until 3 a.m., because the best part about golf is it ends when the sun goes down,'” Tappen said with a laugh. “So hey, there’s always pros to that.”
And evidently, the excitement for Tappen’s addition to the golf team goes both ways.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Kathryn on our Notre Dame football games, so I’ve seen her work ethic and reporting abilities up close. They are outstanding,” added Tappen’s future anchor (and good friend) Dan Hicks. “Not to mention her interviewing skills, which will undoubtedly give the viewers excellent insight from the players trying to win these great championships we get to broadcast.”
The great championships are a perk, to be sure. But truthfully, Kathryn Tappen was hooked well before she ever got the call.
“I’ve played forever. I love the game,” she said. “I grew up earning how to hit sand shots at our beach house in Maine, just hacking away, teeing up golf balls and hitting them in the ocean off the deck. And it’s just, it’s been a part of my life, my whole life.”
Sorry, Mom and Dad.