TV production does its part in conservative return to golf

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FILE - In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Russell Knox, of Scotland, chips onto the sixth green during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in Orlando, Fla. Knox plans to drive his RV some 1,000 miles each way to PGA Tour events when they resume. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Pressure wasn't limited to a closest-to-the-pin contest for six skins worth $1.1 million that Rory McIlroy won to wrap up the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition.

Imagine trying to produce the first live golf on TV in two months with only six cameras on the course, using a bonded cellular network to send images 250 miles away instead of radio frequency to a truck stationed right there at Seminole.

And if that wasn't enough, the plane providing overhead shots had to leave at the end because it was low on fuel.

“It was vastly different from any PGA Tour broadcast on network TV,” said Greg Hopfe, executive producer of PGA Tour Entertainment. “And we did this without a single TV truck.”

It could be maddening at times.

Using bonded cellular meant a second-and-a-half delay for the play-by-play announcer (Rich Lerner) and the NBC analysts (Paul Azinger and Gary Koch) to see the video in St. Augustine, Florida. The Top Tracer technology made it impossible to sync, which is why the click of contact was heard when players were at the top of their swings.

TV trucks in the compound have a person who can shade the camera, making it easier to pick up the ball in flight.

“This technology doesn't allow for it,” Hopfe said. “We were hoping for a blue sky the entire day. When it goes up to a white sky, we struggled to keep it in the frame. That was a big challenge. We lost some golf balls. The good things is we had the plane up there.”