Shane Bacon’s next act? Finding fun at the new-look Golf Channel
It’s been at least a decade since Shane Bacon’s last serious golf job.
Bacon, then a twenty-something and recovering mini-tour player, was working as a freelance writer in the late 2000s when he received a phone call. On the other end of the line was Irene Coe, an LPGA pro from just north of Los Angeles.
Coe needed a fill-in caddie. She reached out to her friend, (the late) Erica Blasberg for suggestions. Blasberg remembered an old college classmate from the University of Arizona who’d caddied for a summer at St. Andrews and remained in the golf space. Not long later, Bacon was a looper once again.
Bacon and Coe were a short-lived tandem, spanning only a half-dozen or so events on the LPGA. Still, a couple months proved long enough to transform Bacon’s perspective on the sport — and the world — around him.
“I would caddie with three or four people, most of the time it’d be men, and they’d have no idea who Irene [Coe] was,” Bacon told GOLF.com “By the end of the day, they’d be the biggest fan of Irene on the planet. Every single pro-am. Because she’s awesome and interesting and fun and funny.”
The lesson, as Bacon tells it, was simple.
“Golf is supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to have a good time talking about it,” he said. “It’s a hobby for a lot of us, it’s a getaway for a lot of us. Even the professionals, it’s a blessing to get this chance to do it. I want to have fun, I don’t want it to feel stodgy.”
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A dozen years later, if there’s a single word to define Shane Bacon, it’s fun.
Bacon, of course, is no longer a caddie. He ditched his looping expertise years ago in favor of a career in golf media. After burrowing his way into the digital landscape as a writer at AOL, Yahoo and CBS, Bacon pivoted into television as a host at DirecTV’s Back9 Network. The short-lived venture eventually gave way to an opportunity at Fox Sports, which had recently picked up the television rights to the USGA.
With Fox, Bacon ascended into a staple of executive producer Mark Loomis’ futuristic coverage, everymanning his way into roles as host, analyst and on-course reporter. On the side, he also built out a loyal following for a pair of podcasts — the Clubhouse and Get a Grip, which he hosts alongside PGA Tour pro Max Homa.
When Fox sold the USGA broadcast rights to NBC in May, Bacon again found himself on the move.
“2020 showed a lot of us that planning out life is sometimes a fool’s errand,” he said. “I had 2020 planned to call the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the Women’s Open in Houston and the Amateur in Bandon. That was my plan, and then all this stuff happened and plans changed.”
After a few months on the market, an opportunity appeared. Golf Channel was in the middle of reshaping its entire operation — moving from its Orlando studios to NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford, Conn. and reorganizing staff. The network was looking for a new face for a brand-new studio show.
The show would be called Golf Today and replace Morning Drive as Golf Channel’s first daily show. Network executives wanted to know, would Bacon be interested in serving as one of the show’s anchors?
“This opportunity comes and you go, ‘This is exactly what I want to do, and I didn’t know it yesterday,'” he said. “This business that we’re in, it exists in turns and curves, and this is a really exciting turn and curve.”
After accepting the job, his attention turned to Stamford. Bacon, his wife and young son would have to coordinate their move from Phoenix to Connecticut in just a few weeks’ time. With the holidays just around the corner and the show set to begin airing in the New Year, Golf Channel’s newest anchor began a mad scramble to move his belongings east.
Evidently, the pieces are still coming together.
“I’ve been living on an air mattress,” he laughed. “We’re on the bottom floor of this apartment complex and we keep laughing because people walk by and they keep doing double-takes because it’s just these open windows with not one thing in there.”
Even without a bedframe, Bacon isn’t much different in his new job (and new life). He wants Golf Today to be irreverent, interesting and honest. Alongside co-anchor and longtime friend Damon Hack, he hopes the discourse will be intelligent, or at the very least entertaining (and preferably both).
Mostly though, he’s obsessed with that three-letter word.
“Fun is such a generic way to put it. I want people at home to know we’re having fun,” he said. “I don’t want to have to tell people we’re having fun. I just want them to know it.”
Bacon hopes Golf Today will prove agile enough to look widely. Golf is a massive sport — even excluding a behemoth like the PGA Tour — and who better to prove that than a mini tour washout and LPGA caddie like Bacon?
“We don’t want to just look at one tour, one group of players, one person – we want to make sure we give credit as it’s deserved to everyone in golf,” he said. “I played mini tour golf back in the day, but if I took one thing away from that experience — and it definitely wasn’t money — it was simply that there are so many unbelievable golfers on this planet that you’ve never heard of and you never will hear of. When things happen on tours we’re talking about, let’s not only talk about them, but let’s get the person on the show.”
Those who have seen Golf Today through its first week know the show isn’t far off the beaten path from its predecessor, Morning Drive. Golf Today puts an obvious emphasis on the PGA Tour, but such is life for those responsible for two hours of live television, seven days per week on a network that frequently carries live tour coverage.
Noticeably different are the show’s voices — Jimmy Roberts and Anna Whitely are seasoned and informed in the early week iteration, while Bacon and Hack add a certain levity with their back-and-forth.
“During rehearsals, the stage manager the first day was like, ‘Man, you guys have great chemistry. How long have you guys been doing this?'” Bacon said. “Damon and I were like, ‘This is literally the first day of doing this in our entire lives.’ So, Damon and I are on the same page with this.”
Fate is a curious prospect for Bacon, and perhaps why he’s so approachable to his audience. As sure as he appears to have walked out of a lab for sports television personalities and on set at Golf Channel, he shares something fundamental with golfers.
His professional life has traversed a half-dozen, equally unpredictable job titles, one of which required splitting a cramped apartment in Scotland for ~$200 a month just to caddie at St. Andrews. The connective tissue between each of the stops along his path couldn’t be greed or ambition — it had to be something more virtuous.
“I started writing a blog for fun because a buddy of mine at St. Andrews asked me why I wasn’t writing after college,” Bacon said. “Then I started getting picked up at AOL and they started paying me something like $15 per article, and I was really excited for that. I maybe didn’t think this was going to be the case for what I was going to be doing in 2021, but when I looked into it deeper, I realized it was exactly what I should be doing. That’s everything you need to know about how things change.”
Bacon’s job is rarely serious. And why on earth would it be?
“There’s ample opportunity to present something fun,” he said. “We have the crew to do it, and we’re going to present so much.”
“So why not? Why not make it fun?”