Multimedia sports personality Chris Russo is known for his edgy commentary and unbridled opinions, but the man they call “Mad Dog” was never more excited than he was on May 20 at Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk, CT. Let’s let him tell the story.
“It was a really competitive tournament. Twenty-eight teams were vying for fifteen spots in the finals. I was not playing well at all heading to the 15th hole. It was 154 yards downhill. I knew I hit it at the perfect height. The ball hit the top of a ledge and started to crawl downhill and into the hole. It was my first ever hole-in-one!”
Following this momentous feat, Russo felt even more pressure. “I really had to play well the next three holes. You don’t want to ruin a hole-in-one like that. I bogied, bogied, and double-bogeyed, and we went all the way to the finals!”
A 20 handicap, Russo began his sports media career in Florida, but rose to national fame with Mike Francesa on the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show at WFAN Radio in New York. The influential and groundbreaking program aired from 1989-2008.
These days, he headlines SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio channel where he hosts “Mad Dog Unleashed, weekdays 3-6pm. He also hosts “High Heat”, weekday afternoons on MLB Network. Russo and Francesa are currently nominated for the National Radio Hall of Fame in the Spoken Word category. Past inductees include Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and Larry King.
Says Russo, “It is a fan vote so I am not sure how it will go, but it would be a terrific honor for sure. We were on the air from 1989 to 2008. Those were great years.” Indeed, both Russo’s career and golf game improved when he got to the Big Apple.
“I started playing as a kid, and went to Hilton Head a couple of times. When I started working in New York City in 1988, I got more into it. I joined Shorehaven in 2003. That was great because I now had a place to go play.”
Among Russo’s favorite courses are Newport Country Club, Sankaty Head on Nantucket, Maidstone and Shinnecock on Long Island, Pebble Beach, and Cypress. He adds, “Obviously I would love to play places like Pine Valley and Augusta, and I would love to get over to Ireland and play Kingsbarns in Scotland.”
With a family and busy media career, Russo has to find time for his golf fix. “I’ve gotten out there about eight or nine times so far this year. The biggest challenge for me is my hole-by-hole inconsistency. In golf, you can get off the tracks on the same hole. When I play well, I play consistently.”
Russo has played alongside sports legends such as Brett Favre Jim Palmer, but he has his own golf media etiquette. He explains, “I never talk shop on the course. Those guys don’t need to be interviewed when they are playing golf.
“I once played in Palm Springs with (former MLB manager) Gene Mauch. He started talking about his biggest regret in baseball, blowing a 10 game lead in 1964 with the Phillies. Mauch was a great golfer and guy. He actually set up our game through a mutual friend, the late Jim Karvellas, the former Knicks’ announcer. I was just a young broadcaster at the time and I appreciated that.”
A passionate golfer, Russo actually took some chipping lessons leading into his hole-in-one tourney at Shorehaven, but otherwise, he eschews formal instruction. He relates, “I have not taken lessons too much. I have four kids so it’s tough for me to spend the day taking a golf lesson. I always seem to play better in tournaments when there is something on the line. I am very competitive out there. I don’t know all the rules, but I want to play my best.”
John Molori is an author and columnist for numerous publications. Like him on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?