NESN studio host and reporter Kathryn Tappen has a tough job. She is the TV referee for a bevy of bickering Bruins including Gord Kluzak, Barry Pederson and Mike Milbury. Since joining NESN in 2006, Tappen has been more than up to the task, carving a significant niche for herself in Boston sports media.

“It’s been a great run,” says the 30 year-old Tappen, a record-setting, Academic All-American track standout at Rutgers University, Class of 2003. “The fans in Boston are so passionate. If you say something that is incorrect, they will definitely call you on it. When you cover peoples’ favorite teams, it’s like you are a part of their families.” Family and golf have always been interwoven for Tappen. “I grew up in Morristown, NJ and my parents were big golfers,” she relates. “It was so amazing to be able to spend hours on the course with my mom and dad. They gave me great golf pointers, but what I remember most is stopping for a hot dog at the ninth hole and the great conversations we had. “Even on my honeymoon in Hawaii, my husband (former Bruin Jay Leach) and I golfed at the Kapalua course where they had the Mercedes Championship.” More recently, Tappen has played The Golf Club of New England, Turner Hill, Granite Links, Pinehills and The Country Club in Brookline. “One of my favorite courses is Newport Country Club,” relates Tappen, who worked at CSTV in New York and WJAR-TV in Providence before joining NESN. “I just love the history there. The holes are long and challenging, and the wind can change the game completely. You have to make adjustments at every hole.”

Newport served as the backdrop for Tappen’s brush with pro golf greatness. “I played in a pro-am with Natalie Gulbis before the U.S. Open,” she relates. “It was just unbelievable to watch how a pro prepares for a big tournament. She played two balls, and her caddy would mark every spot on the course. It was also amazing to get golf pointers from an LPGA pro.” Tappen says that her golf prowess has helped to break down that wall between athlete and reporter. “I can remember being paired up in a foursome with Ray Bourque. We were poking fun at each other at every hole. It was great to have that kind of rapport, especially being a woman.  “Thanks to people like Jackie MacMullan, I don’t have the challenges that female reporters had in the past, but we still have to earn our credibility and watch how we conduct ourselves. That’s just the way it is.”  Tappen has covered the Deutsche Bank Championship, CVS Classic and the U.S. Women’s Open at Newport where she followed her favorite all-time golfer, Annika Sorenstam. Ever the family person, she sent her parents to this year’s Masters to celebrate her dad’s 60th birthday. Her own classic golf moment occurred closer to home.

“At one of Ray Bourque’s tournaments at The Golf Club of New England, they had a long drive competition,” explains Tappen, who has won an AP Award and been nominated for two Emmy awards. “It seemed like every great Bruins player was there. I was nervous, and gripped the club so hard not wanting to look bad in front of all those guys. I drove it straight down the middle over 200 yards. That was unbelievable.” Tappen describes her relationship with golf as a passion, but the feeling is not always mutual. She relates, “I golf about ten times a year in different charity events and I still love golfing at our summer home in Maine, but no matter how much I practice, some days I feel like I’ve never played before. “I don’t really have a love-hate relationship with the game, but I think if I played five days a week, it would be more frustrating if I didn’t improve. I really do enjoy any opportunity to play.” 

Syndicated columnist John Molori writes for numerous publications and appears regularly on AM 1110 WCCM. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.