Lisa Cornwell joined Golf Channel on January 1, 2014 as a host for Golf Central, but her life in the game goes back to her Razorback roots.
“I started playing when I was about 5 years old,” says the 41 year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native and cousin of former President Bill Clinton. “I remember getting a Gary Player set of clubs with a little persimmon head 5-wood, a 7-iron, and a putter. Fayetteville had great junior programs at the time, so I was able to get some good instruction.”
“I loved playing at Pinnacle and Blessings, but there are so many great older courses down there – short courses with small, table-top greens. I learned how to be a shot maker.”
Cornwell’s interest in golf became a vocation as she excelled at the collegiate level. “I went to Southern Methodist University because, at the time, the University of Arkansas did not have a golf program. Eventually, they got one and I transferred back, becoming their very first scholarship player. I was able to sit in on interviews when they were hiring coaches. It was a very special time being there.”
In addition to her collegiate prowess, Cornwell was a three-time All-American junior golfer and a four-time Arkansas Women’s State Amateur champion. Her sights were squarely set on a pro golf career.
“That was all I wanted to do. As a kid, I loved, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, and Patty Sheehan. When I was 15, I was the first junior girl that David Leadbetter ever coached, but I was a field player. I wanted to do everything like Nick Faldo. I absolutely worshipped the ground he walked on. Eventually, I kind of got burned out on the game.”
Cornwell was pre-law at Arkansas and worked in the sales field after graduation. She segued to sports media, creating and hosting the syndicated SEC Press Pass in 2011. She has also worked for the Big Ten Network and as an anchor and reporter for NBC, CBS and ABC affiliates in Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio.
Says Cornwell, “I never thought that I would work in golf. My agent suggested that we look into it and I started working for Golf Channel in 2014. I always joke that joining Golf Channel was the worst thing for my game because of the schedule.
“Before I took this job, I could consistently shoot in the 70s. I miss being out there. I do play a lot with (Golf Channel colleague) Tripp Isenhour. We pick at each other about our games. When he misses a shot, I rib him a little bit. We always bring our clubs when we travel.”
Working in golf television has been a sometimes surreal experience for Cornwell. She relates, “When I get a text now from Nancy Lopez, I ask myself, ‘Is this really happening? Why is she talking to me?’ On my first road assignment for Golf Channel, I sat right beside Nick Faldo at dinner. There I was trying to make small talk with my idol.”
The talented and insightful Cornwell counts Liberty National, Congressional, Whistling Straits, and any of the older Donald Ross courses among her favorites. Her course bucket list includes Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Augusta, and Cabot Cliffs. She holds a true respect for the game that has been part of her life since childhood.
“I got to interview Jack Nicklaus and caddy for (fellow Razorback) John Daly. I still can’t believe that Annika Sorenstam calls me by my first name, and I love some of the current players like Lydia Ko and Justin Thomas.
“So many athletes and musicians play golf. Once, I was playing in Tahoe and Charles Barkley told me he loves watching me on TV. That was kind of amazing. There is no doubt that golf breaks down barriers.”
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