KILDEER, Ill. - Baby Beckett takes a nap every afternoon at two o’clock. It’s also the perfect time for his mother, Paige Mackenzie, studio host on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, to also catch up on some sleep.
I have no doubt my afternoon phone call to his mother woke him from his slumber. It was shortly after our conversation began that 11-month-old Beckett began crying and wailing for his mother, who put our conversation on hold to comfort her first born.
Motherhood isn’t the only new job Paige is juggling this year. At this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Paige will be in the booth for her first major championship. She will serve as an analyst alongside Gary Koch and veteran broadcaster, Dan Hicks.
“I’m excited,” Paige said about the opportunity to work with Hicks. “It’s funny to think I grew up a lot of years watching him on TV and now I get to sit alongside him.”
It’s funny to think how much Paige’s life has changed in just a few years. In 2007, she joined the LPGA Tour. In 2013, Golf Channel came calling with an opportunity for Paige to cover the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club. Never one to pass on an opportunity, she said yes. But she spent the entire flight to Golf Channel’s studios in Orlando, second guessing her decision and browbeating herself for not being the one out there competing.
It ended up being one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and never once felt jealous,” Paige said about her first Golf Channel experience. “And I still found enjoyment.”
Paige continued playing full-time on the LPGA Tour in 2013 before undergoing back surgery in 2014. The next year, she made the transition from playing on Tour to hosting Morning Drive. Paige says the experience ‘feels like home’ and working on the show creates a team-like atmosphere, which she missed from her college days when she played for the University of Washington.
“I forgot how much fun it is to be a part of a team,” said Paige. “That’s the cool thing on Morning Drive, you have a collective group of individuals that work towards the same goal. It feels good to be surrounded by them every day.”
She’ll have a different team around her this week at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, host of the third major championship on the LPGA Tour’s schedule. For just the second time, Paige will lend her voice to an LPGA Tour broadcast and first time at a major championship. Paige’s first experience in the booth came in March 2017 at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, when she was part of a team that included Judy Rankin and Terry Gannon, with Tom Abbott calling holes. She was also an analyst for the NCAA Golf Championships.
In addition to this week being her first time working with Hicks, she’ll also be getting to know veteran producer Tommy Roy. In May, Paige made the trip from Orlando to Ponte Vedra to observe the third-round NBC broadcast of THE PLAYERS. She sat in the booth with Hicks and Gary Koch and listened on a headset to Roy calling the shots.
“I have no doubt it’s going to be a very positive experience,” said Paige, who added she’s eager to learn from the veteran team. “I don’t know Tommy Roy that well, but his reputation very much proceeds him.”
Paige is already learning from him.
During their meeting in Ponte Vedra, Roy mentioned something in passing about CBS football analyst Tony Romo, who recently transitioned from the field to the booth. The former quarterback has been widely praised for his insightful analysis alongside Jim Nantz. If Romo was doing something to catch the attention of a rival network producer, Paige knew it was worth looking into. She began watching Romo.
“If someone is setting up to a shot, I have the opportunity to tell the audience exactly how a player would think through the shot,” Paige said, drawing from her years on Tour. “I can do all of that before a player even hits the shot, and that’s what Romo does well in his calls in football. He’s able to read the defenses in the booth and the tell the audience the play the quarterback is going to play."
Paige is also a fan of NBC swimming analyst, Rowdy Gaines, who works with Hicks during the Olympics. She likes that he’s informative, but he also generates an excitement that makes him fun to watch. She hopes, like Gaines, she can infuse the passion she feels for the LPGA into the weekend’s broadcast.
“I want people to be as excited as I am,” said Paige. “I have a passion for it. I know the players. It gets me excited every day to go to Golf Channel.”
Paige admits the jump from studio host to color analyst forces her out of her comfort zone, but she’s been doing her homework. When we talk a week prior to the championship, she’s already elbows deep in the year’s transcripts, where she’s been digging for every little nugget and detail she can find to provide context to a given player’s situation, should it arise during the broadcast. She shares an example of three-time KPMG Women’s PGA Champion, Inbee Park.
“Inbee changed putters throughout the season,” Paige said. “When we talk about her, I’ll be ready to go. I can give people the context of what they’re seeing in her hands.”
Sunday, Paige arrived at Kemper Lakes to start getting acquainted with the course. After hosting Morning Drive, she planned to visit with players and caddies to get caught up on anything she might need to know for the broadcast. A scout of the golf course with Hicks and Koch was also on her schedule. When asked whether this transition to the booth could be a more permanent one, she left the door open.
“I would love to do more,” said Paige.
Her son, Beckett, didn’t make the trip to Chicago. But this weekend, back home in Orlando, when he awakes from his regular two o’clock nap, he’ll once again be comforted by the sight of his mother’s face.
On network television.