Todd Lewis joined Golf Channel in 2008 and has one of the best and most visible jobs in the business. PGA TOUR fans get to see Todd almost every week as he interviews the game’s biggest stars and the players who have put up the best numbers for that day.
Todd’s interviews are noteworthy for both his personal approach to each player and his ability to have a player open up about his round. His questions to the players and his insights about the game are as engaging as his easy-going demeanor and his attractive appearance in front of the camera.
Todd began his broadcasting career in 1991 as a sports reporter for WXII in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after graduating from UNC at Greensboro. He moved down the road to WECT in Wilmington as the weekend sports anchor and then across the country to KXLY in Spokane, Washington. He returned to his home state and WRAL in Raleigh in 1998 and then furthered his career as sports director at WKMG in Orlando in 1999 before starting with Golf Channel nine years later.
An inveterate golfer with a single-digit handicap, Todd lives in Orlando with his wife Melanie and his dog Beau.
NEGM: What are your current responsibilities with Golf Channel?
TL: Most of the time, 80-90%, I am reporting on the PGA TOUR, including all the majors and the team events of the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. I’m sometimes in the studio in Orlando hosting golf specials or appearing on Morning Drive.
NEGM: How did you end up at Golf Channel?
TL: It was an interesting process. I worked at four local news stations across the country, and the last place I stopped was here in Orlando. I was the sports director here for the CBS affiliate. Frankly, I had had enough of local news, and Golf Channel was here. Steve Sands, with whom I had worked before, was a broadcaster for Golf Channel and helped me get my foot in the door. I freelanced, did a few shows, and worked on Golf Central until I was hired full time as an on-site reporter and interviewer.
NEGM: What do you enjoy most about working for Golf Channel?
TL: The relationships I have made, especially with the world’s greatest players. It’s important that they feel comfortable with me and respect me enough to be candid and open with me in their answers and information. It’s also a testament to them because I think, across the board, the guys on the PGA TOUR are quality guys, inside and outside the ropes, in the manner that they interact with me. So, I certainly enjoy that.
Also, I am part of a company that, ever since I have been there, has been growing and is now a powerful influence in the game. I’m truly honored to belong to that organization.
NEGM: What are your favorite golf events to cover?
TL: The majors. All the majors are great. I love them just because of the excitement and the intensity and what’s up for grabs. The focus has been really heightened internally and externally for the players. And going to The Open Championship, especially this year as my first time at St. Andrews, is always special. It’s a different kind of golf that is played over there, and the weather is always “fun.” So, maybe I do enjoy The Open a little more than the other three majors—but not by much.
NEGM: Who are your favorite interview subjects?
TL: The young crop of players is really good. They’re honest and reflective. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, all these 20-somethings have been untarnished by their fame. They’ll speak their minds and their hearts, and I love them.
And then there are the veterans who are always excellent interviews: Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson to name a few. These guys have been asked so many questions they’ve heard before that they get engaged when you give them a question that gets the gears turning in their heads. So, it’s a little bit of a challenge for me to make sure that they’re not pulling out clichés but are responding to questions that demand thoughtful answers.
NEGM: How do you determine what questions to ask the players after they have finished their rounds?
TL: All of my questions are reactive to what the player has done in his round, depending on whether he’s shot something like a 62 or a 76. What has happened on the golf course is the primary focus. The other thing, too, is understanding these guys’ personalities. I know that if a player has had a tough day I have to be careful about how much I can dig into that bad round. If a player is really reflective, I might get him to be a little more forthcoming, although no one on TOUR likes to talk about his failures. Other players who leave that scoring trailer and are moving quickly, I have to be a little more tentative, and I understand that. Really, so much of what I ask is from my experience of being there so often, knowing the players, and sensing their moods from what they are taking away from the course that day.
NEGM: Do you have a humorous or embarrassing moment as an interviewer that you can retell?
TL: Here’s one that’s both. During the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the focus is on Tiger Woods. After playing 12 holes, he starts grabbing his back, pulls himself out of the tournament, and walks to the parking lot. I’m part of the live broadcast that day, and I try to follow Tiger into the parking lot, but his PR people tell the media to stay away as Tiger won’t take any questions. So, we can’t get a live telecast camera into the parking lot.
Then, however, Tiger says he will take a few questions. We don’t have the live camera, but we have a camera that records interviews, so I ask a few questions. During the next commercial break, the producer asks me to go on live after the break with what Tiger has said to me, and the tape we have taken could be played on TV later on. So, I come on camera and have to tell the world that Tiger Woods withdrew because of his back pain, which is the result of, he says, “My glutes didn’t activate.”
Do I get lit up! People think I am making stuff up and that I don’t know what I’m talking about! Until that taped interview runs about an hour later and everyone can hear Tiger say, “My glutes didn’t activate,” people think I am an idiot!
NEGM: Give us a little background about how you got into the game.
TL: I grew up in a very modest family in North Carolina on a tobacco and dairy farm. I was very much a blue-collar guy in a blue-collar family. I was the first ever to graduate from college in my family. Along the way when I was growing up, nearby there was this little golf course, and it was not a country club but a club in the country, as I like to say. It had no bunkers, and it was no longer than 6,000 yards. When I was about 13, I had some buddies from school who had just started to play golf, and I became addicted to the game. My parents would drop me off when I wasn’t working on the farm, and I’d play 54 holes a day with my friends. I taught myself, had a few lessons along the way, and just fell in love with the game in rural North Carolina.
The best lesson I ever had didn’t occur until I was well into my adult years. I learned two things: the most important one is to make sure that I swing from the inside to the outside, and the second is not to swing so hard.
Because of my busy schedule, I was actually a better golfer before I began to work for Golf Channel. When I’m home for a stretch, I try to play twice a week or so.
My current Index is 7.5.
NEGM: Name five of your favorite golf courses in the world.
TL: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, HI; Mountaintop Lake and Golf Course, Cashiers, NC; Augusta National; The Vintage Club, Palm Springs, CA; Old Course at St. Andrews.
NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome of today? Of any time period?
TL: Jeff Gordon, the NASCAR racer, Jack Nicholson, Chris Rock, and Bill Clinton.
John F. Kennedy, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan.
(Photographs courtesy of Golf Channel)