‘It’s pinch-me stuff’: How CBS’s Trevor Immelman is creating a Presidents Cup ‘Franchise’ … and becoming one
These days, Trevor Immelman’s cup doesn’t just runneth over, it floods. The 2008 Masters champion is one of golf’s busiest guys, the rare player whose frequent-flier miles have grown in retirement.
But all that hustle is about to pay off. In the next six months, the 42-year-old South African’s life will be upended twice. First, he’ll captain the International squad at the 2022 Presidents Cup, a responsibility that has spanned three years and many thousands of hours of focus and hard work. Then, in early 2023, he’ll debut as CBS Sports’ newest lead golf analyst, succeeding Nick Faldo after 16 years as Jim Nantz’s chatty sidekick.
Before the chaos ensues, Immelman found some time to share some thoughts on the rocket ship that is his post-playing career and the goosebumps that, recently, have become just about unshakable.
GOLF: You’ve been gearing up for the Presidents Cup for what feels like an eternity. Now that it’s finally here, can you say that you’ve enjoyed the process and preparation?
Trevor Immelman: It’s been a lot of fun. You know, we had an extra year because things were pushed back due to Covid. My wife [Carminita] and I decided that we would use that extra year for the team. We wanted to build out the franchise—to find a way to push our new [International team] logo out there in as many ways as we could. It’s been fun with the players too— spending a lot of time with them and their families, having get-togethers when we can. Now it’s just exciting. After the long wait, we’re finally down to crunch time.
G: How would you describe “the franchise”? What is the identity of the International squad?
TI: I have to take my hat off to Ernie Els. That’s one of the things that he decided he wanted to change leading up to the 2019 Presidents Cup. He went out and designed a logo—the team shield—and when he did that, finally, for the first time, we had a flag. Our players come from all over the world, but when we play for this team we play for the shield. It may sound silly to Americans, because you guys have always been an amazingly patriotic country, but for us to come together under one logo and play for the same thing, it means a lot. To see people pitch up with an International team logo at a regular Tour stop, that’s cool. That was my vision right from the start.
G: I’m glad you brought up Ernie Els, who you helped carry the International side to its best performance in years, back in 2019. What’s one big lesson you learned from serving as his assistant at Royal Melbourne?
TI: His calmness. The players absolutely responded to that. We had the youngest team in the history of the Presidents Cup—seven rookies—and those youngsters were like sponges around him. The fact that there was no panic—I think the rookies really responded to that.
G: Obviously, these are interesting times in golf. As a captain, how have you navigated the landscape over the last several months?
TI: LIV has been challenging, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s not too much I can do about it. At the end of the day, these players need to make their minds up and decide what’sbest for them and their future. You have players who left, and I absolutely respect that. But on the other side, you also have players who decided to stay. From my side, as captain of the Internationals, the 12 that pitch up in Charlotte, those are the 12 that wanted to be there, and those are the 12 that I want to be there with.
G: What do you hope your legacy is on this team?
TI: Our plan is, Let’s see if we can build something—not just with this Presidents Cup but future ones down the line. Let’s actually win this damn thing. That’s the goal.
G: Off the course, things have been pretty busy for you too. In January, you’ll be succeeding Nick Faldo as CBS’ new lead golf analyst. Did you ever see yourself landing such a prominent role in golf television?
TI: I did—and I hope that doesn’t come across in an arrogant way. When I started doing TV in 2017 and I realized how much I enjoyed it, I knew it was absolutely going to be my next career. I realized I was all-in from that moment on. To be following in the footsteps of my hero, Sir Nick, and people like Ken Venturi and Lanny Wadkins, it’s “pinch me” stuff.
G: CBS chairman Sean McManus is a big fan of yours. What was the interview process like for the most coveted job in golf TV?
TI: [Laughs] I didn’t even know I was interviewing, which is probably a good thing. I guess I’ve been interviewing since I started doing TV. I don’t for one second profess that I know what works and what doesn’t work. I feel like I’m still so early in the process and learning as I go, but I work very hard at it. For some reason, Sean and his team decided that I was ready for this huge job, and I’m very grateful for that.
G: As you look ahead, is there an event you have circled on your calendar that you can’t wait to broadcast?
TI: I just got goosebumps hearing you ask that. The Masters is going to be incredible because of my history at that tournament. And I’ll also throw in the Genesis. I’ve always loved Riviera. This stuff is so damn cool, at times I can’t believe it’s happening.
G: Fortunately, the Presidents Cup is on NBC, so you’ll at least be able to focus on one job that week. Before I let you go, finish this sentence for me: The International squad wins at Quail Hollow if ____.
TI: We putt well. [Laughs] Seriously. That’s really it.