NBC needed a sudden U.S. Women’s Open fill-in. They called the LPGA
There was a moment during the U.S. Women’s Open that exemplified the entirety of Mel Reid’s appeal to sports TV. The problem?
Nobody saw it.
As Reid tells it, the moment came a few days into last week’s grand television debut on Golf Channel’s Live From. After a “timid” opening few days in the chair opposite Anna Jackson and Brandel Chamblee, she was finally finding her stride.
Reid is, charitably, a goofball. Her humor is dry enough to start a forest fire. When she’s comfortable, it doesn’t take long before her jokes start flowing. And through the first few days at the U.S. Women’s Open, the jokes were, well, flowing. But there was still one audience member who hadn’t cracked a chuckle: Chamblee.
This was a notable point for Reid, who had long admired Chamblee’s on-camera ability, and from up close, had gotten to learn his work ethic was even more impressive.
Finally, the show reached a commercial break, and Reid went for the big guns, launching into an “absolutely filthy” story involving her good friend Charley Hull. When she reached the punchline, Chamblee erupted.
“I think that laugh is one of my greatest life achievements,” she says now. “I just got a whole newfound confidence.”
Confidence that, Reid says, came well-earned, considering she arrived on the Live From set last Wednesday in a mild state of shock. The former LPGA winner had, just days earlier, planned to spend the majority of U.S. Open week back home in Jacksonville, several thousand miles away from Pebble Beach.
“I was planning on doing my actual job: practicing,” she said. “But then on Sunday, the call came.”
Reid’s agent was on the other end of the line, and she held an interesting proposition. NBC had just called. They needed a fill-in for the week doing studio work alongside Chamblee and Jackson, and Reid, a quick-witted Brit, was the exact persona they’d hoped to add. Was she interested?
“Sometimes doors just open and you’ve got to walk through them,” Reid said. “This one was a really big opportunity for me.”
Rather than watching the U.S. Women’s Open from home as she had planned to do after missing out on qualifying, Reid hopped on the next flight to Northern California for a weeklong audition talking about the tournament.
At first, she says, she was excited about the opportunity, but it didn’t take long for the weight of the moment to hit her.
“It was kind of scary. I got anxious about doing it,” she says now with a low laugh. “I sat there and was like I don’t really know what I’m doing. Am I supposed to talk to you guys?”
Fortunately, the assignment was fairly simple: Reid would join Chamblee and Jackson for what amounted to three hours of live TV during the tournament week: a 2-4 p.m. ET slot before the start of the live broadcast, and an 11 p.m.-midnight slot upon its completion. Chamblee and Jackson, two TV veterans, would do much of the heavy lifting, teeing up Reid to offer insight on any number of topics.
But quickly Reid learned that three hours on live television is an eternity, even with commercial breaks. Over the first day, she fell into a frequent trap faced by TV first-timers and started focusing too much on her mistakes. Before long, though, feedback arrived: be yourself, be confident — and, above all — be funny.
It’s hard to say precisely when the switch flipped, maybe shortly after that first Brandel chuckle, but by the time the weekend came around Reid and Chamblee were sparring at a clip that’d make Paul McGinley blush. There were nuanced conversations around driving distance, course setup and purse payouts, and even a handful of playful quips directed at her studio partners. Reid says she tried to take cues from some of her broadcast idols — Shaq and Charles Barkley among them.
“They bring so much personality but they also get their point across without losing themselves,” Reid says. “Honestly, it’s talent like me hitting a driver. It’s hours of time and hours of practice.”
By the time the week was over, she’d quickly earned a reputation as the sort of lightning-fast golf talker that every network craves — and gained a glimpse at what life could look like once her “other” job is done.
“I definitely want to still be involved in golf. After my career, I think something in broadcasting is what I’ve thought at my core,” she said. “I think I said after day one, ‘I don’t know if this is for me.’ And then towards the end of the week, ‘oh, I was like I would totally do this.”
Ultimately, Reid finds herself in an enviable position: with a regular place on the LPGA and a network job very likely awaiting upon her retirement from the game.
But the really encouraging thought — the one that should be going through every network exec’s mind this week — is how good things might sound once Reid’s stories move from the commercial break to live TV. In the meantime, though?
“I need to find some that aren’t so inappropriate.”