Commentating legend Peter Alliss dies at 89

The eight-time Ryder Cup player, 31-time tournament winner, golf course designer, author and legendary golf commentator known universally as the ‘Voice of Golf’, passed away suddenly but peacefully at home aged 89.

In 1958, Alliss won three National Opens in a row (Italian Open, Spanish Open and Portugal Open), while in 1961, he worked his first tournament as a broadcaster for the BBC – The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – where he also played. He retired as a playing professional and became BBC’s lead commentator in 1978.

Peter Alliss Peter Alliss

In a broadcasting career which would span over 40 years, Alliss would become widely renowned as one of the game’s greatest commentators, winning the hearts of Britain and the world with his dulcet tones and sharp wit.

As well as commentating regularly for the BBC, he also worked for ESPN and ABC Sports as well as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

As a much-loved broadcasting personality in Britain, he would appear on various television shows, while his illustrated book Peter Alliss’ Golf Heroes won the ‘Best Illustrated Book’ category of the British Sports Book Awards in 2003.

In 2012, Alliss was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame for his services to golf and just last month he commentated for the final time on the BBC’s coverage of the 2020 Masters Tournament from home.

“I only came into golf because my father was a golf professional, and I couldn’t do anything else. I left school when I was 15 and went as his assistant and followed on from there, and golf professionals or people in sport weren’t idolised as they are today. It was a different world, a different time,” said Alliss at his World Golf Hall Of Fame induction, where he famously gave a one-fingered salute at the end of his speech to the school teacher, who said he would amount to nothing in his life.

In my many years working the European Tour I never really got to meet Peter but I did so admire him.

He had a way of captivating the radio listener or the TV viewer and, at times, without saying anything. What I loved about his commentary was that he didn’t state the bleeding obvious as so many commentators do nowadays.

Who wants to hear a former multiple major champion or a fellow prolific winning golfer remarking: ‘Oh, he’s going to like that drive’ or ‘Now, that’s a great putt’.

This was at the heart of Peter Alliss, he told us stories, he even told us stories that had nothing to do with golf and he also regaled us with wonderful tales from his own golf career. He knew his subject matter and what Peter did best was he spoke with warmth and, if I can use the word, affection for his audience.

SKY’s Tony Johnstone is probably the closest we have to Peter Alliss now and you only had to listen to his impersonation of the ‘Go Away’ bird during the coverage of last week’s South African Open as he had me, and I’m certain thousands of other viewers, in stitches.

Without mentioning names but imagine the multi-awarding winning Jim Nantz even thinking of impersonating the ‘Go Away’ bird while calling the action at a golf tournament.