Norah O’Donnell Q&A: The CBS Evening News anchor on talking golf with Obama, hitting a shot in front of Rory McIlroy, and why Jim Nantz is her hero

This interview first appeared in the September 2019 issue of GOLF.

You’re a hardhitting journalist and golfer, so we’ll start with a tough one: Tin Cup or Caddyshack?

[Laughs] Caddyshack.

If you could choose one world leader to play a round with, who would it be?

The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who’s apparently quite a good golfer. Plus, I’ve never played in Asia.

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell.
CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell.
Patrick James Miller

And a fellow anchor?

Michael Strahan. But I play mostly with my husband and my kids — although I did hit balls in Yankee Stadium with Rory McIlroy. I thought, Oh my god, if I whiff this I’ll be so embarrassed! I had sweaty palms.

During a slow news week, are you ever tempted to switch jobs with Jim Nantz?

Jim Nantz has the greatest job in the world. “Hello, friends.” He is the most superb broadcaster out there. I’ve been with him in the booth at an NFL game, and listened to him for years calling the Masters, and he does it with no script.
He’s my hero.

You globe-trot for a living. What’s the most exotic place in the world that you’ve teed it up?

The thing about being a journalist is, when you travel with, say, the president or secretary of defense, there’s no leisure time. I rarely go a mile from the hotel. The only time I played on a presidential trip was in Hawaii, while traveling with Obama.

Have you played with him?

No, but I did interview him in the Oval Office. It was a Friday and he said, “What do you got going this afternoon?” And I said, “Actually, I have a tee time at Congressional.” Then I said, “I know you can’t play there because there are a lot of blind spots for the Secret Service.” And he said, “I can play anywhere I want to!” And sure enough, a couple of months later, my husband and I were playing there, and he was right behind us.

Who would poke it farther, Gayle King or Bob Schieffer?

Bob. Bob plays.

What’s more nervewracking: hitting off the first tee with a bunch of people watching, or pronouncing the name of Tajikistan prime minister Kokhir Rasulzoda live on-air?

Teeing off with a bunch of people watching.

What are the similarities between golf and delivering the news?

Playing it right up the middle, and not being too left or too right.

What makes a perfect golf day?

Walking the course. It’s 80 degrees. I’m playing with friends or family, breaking 90. My sand wedge is pretty killer from 85-90 yards out, so a few nice up-and-downs. No water balls.

Chris Nashawaty is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story.

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