Many sports fans know Sean McDonough for his brilliant
work covering sports on television. What they may not know is that McDonough,
the son of the late and highly respected sportswriter Will McDonough, is quite
a good golfer who plays as often as he can. New Englanders know Sean well for
his work for 16 years announcing Boston Red Sox games. In 1992, at the age of
30, McDonough became the youngest man to announce the national broadcast of the
World Series. He has covered the Masters, U.S. Open tennis, the Winter
Olympics, the NFL, the College World Series, hockey, and college football. He
is presently one of the lead announcers for ESPN’s college basketball coverage.
Golfing Magazine had a chat with the 47-year-old McDonough recently about golf,
sports and life in general.
GM: Do you play much golf?
SEAN: I play enough that I should be better than I am. I think I have posted about 40 scores this year, and I also play in a lot of charity events. I would guess, on average, I play about two or three times a week during peak golf season.
GM: What is your handicap?
SEAN: My index was 7.5 when this golf season began, but I have gone up to a 9.7. It has been a very frustrating summer. There hasn’t been one particular problem, although my iron play is probably the biggest culprit. I have just had a tough scoring summer for a variety of reasons.
GM: What do you enjoy most about the game?
SEAN: I love to compete. My father was the most competitive person I have ever known and I have had friends tell me that I am the most competitive person they know. I also enjoy the social aspects of golf. It is a great way to spend quality time with friends (or family). I have made some wonderful lasting friendships with people I met on a golf course. You learn a lot about people when you play golf with them, and often their on-course behavior and attitudes mirror the way they conduct themselves in every day life. Golf reveals character, or lack thereof. I particularly enjoy how people react to “pressure” situations. Although, as I often say to golfing companions when they use the word “pressure”…if you feel a lot of pressure over a putt for a couple of bucks in a fun match at your local course, I don’t want you flying my plane or performing my brain surgery.
GM: What is your lowest round and where?
SEAN: I shot 74 at Oakley in Watertown, Massachusetts a few years ago. I have shot 75 several times at Woodland Golf Club in Newton, Massachusetts …a wonderful course with great members where I have been privileged to be a member for 20 years. My goal is to some day shoot even par or better. I am like a lot of other golfers in that I will play 14 or 15 solid holes in the typical round, but have three or four holes that are “score killers.”
GM: Have you played with any Tour players?
SEAN: I have had the pleasure of playing with a number of Tour players. Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade are good friends of mine and I have played with both of them on a number of occasions. I have also been fortunate enough to play in several pro-ams, especially at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and in recent years I have played with Lucas Glover, Jeff Quinney, Tim Wilkinson, Blaine McCallister, and Marco Dawson. They were all great guys. It was particularly exciting to watch Lucas win the U.S. Open this summer, knowing that he is a class act and a real gentleman. He is also a great sports fan. We spent a lot of our round together talking about Clemson football. He follows the fortunes of his old school’s football team very closely.
GM: Did your dad play the game? Did you get to play much with him?
SEAN: My Dad took up golf at around the age of 50 and become a golf addict. When he was younger, he used to say golf was not really a sport. Dad was a terrific athlete and he didn’t think golf was much of an athletic undertaking. But when he finally decided to give it a try, he was hooked. He also realized very quickly how challenging it was to become an accomplished golfer. We played a lot of golf together. In fact, for the last ten years or so of his life, many of my memories of our time together involve golf. As I mentioned earlier, he loved to compete and that made him fun to play with. Sometimes when I see fathers and sons playing together, I get a lump in my throat or a little misty eyed because it reminds me of how much I miss my Dad and how much I enjoyed the time I spent with him…particularly on the golf course.
GM: What is your favorite all-time course?
SEAN: I have been blessed to play a number of the top ranked courses in America … Pine Valley, Augusta, Pebble Beach, Winged Foot, Merion, The Country Club, and Oakmont…to name a few that jump out. They are all awesome and I would welcome the chance to play any of them again. My favorite among that group is Oakmont. It is probably the most difficult course I have ever played, but it is very fair. And from that group of the most highly regarded golf courses in America, it is also the most friendly and welcoming to a guest like me. Oakmont is a regular club. It doesn’t feel stiff like some other places I have been. I have a friend, Curt Coulter, who is a six-time club champion at Oakmont and he has invited me to play in their big Member-Guest tournament, the Kiltie Invitational, on a number of occasions. It is always a treat.
GM: How about in the Boston area?
SEAN: There is no doubt that the best golf course in the Boston area is Boston Golf Club in Hingham, Massachusetts. It has started to get ranked in some of the national top 100 lists and I have no doubt that, as more people discover it, it will be ranked very high on all of those lists. One of the best decisions I have made in my life was to join BGC while it was still in the design stage. It was the brainchild of a great man, the late John Mineck, who was tragically killed in an accident on the course more than two years ago. Gil Hanse did a phenomenal job designing it and Rodney Hine and his crew make sure it is immaculately maintained. The pro shop and clubhouse staffs are first-rate. I have had friends from all over the country play at Boston Golf Club and all of them say it is one of the best courses they have ever played, if not the best. I think it belongs in that group of nationally-known clubs I mentioned in response to the previous question.
GM: How about in New England?
SEAN: To me, the state of Rhode Island has more great golf courses per square mile than any state in the country. I love Wannamoisett and Newport. And Warwick is a wonderful course on a great piece of property on Warwick Neck. There are a number of other great courses in Rhode Island that I have not played but am looking forward to playing. In Connecticut, I thought Stanwich was magnificent, although it was very hard.
GM: You've covered several Masters. What kind of experience was that?
SEAN: It was one of the best experiences of my professional life. The Masters is the most well run sporting event I have ever attended. You have a sense of how special it is every time you are there. I was lucky enough to cover four Masters for CBS (1996-99). I would put it right at the top of the list of events I have broadcast…alongside the World Series and the Olympics.
GM: Would you like to cover more golf?
SEAN: If the situation presents itself, I would love to cover more golf. I love the sport and the people involved with professional golf are fantastic. Professional golfers and hockey players are the most approachable athletes with whom I have dealt.
GM: If you had a dream foursome, who would be the other three players?
SEAN: That is a difficult question to answer. There are a lot of answers running through my head. The one spot would be easy to fill. My Dad. I would do anything to play golf, or just spend time, with him again. After that, I would be thrilled to play with any two of my closest friends who enjoy playing golf because the best part of golf is spending time with people you love.
GM: What is your favorite event to cover and why?
SEAN: The favorite event for me was probably the World Series. The Masters, the Olympics, the NCAA basketball tournament and some of the other major events I have worked were all a thrill…but on those events, you are one of several play-by-play announcers. When you call the World Series on national TV, it is just you and your color analyst. It was an awesome responsibility and thrill, knowing that I was one of the very few men in history lucky enough to broadcast the World Series to our nation (and about 100 other countries around the world).
GM: Do you have a favorite moment covering sports?
SEAN: I have several moments that come to mind. When I was broadcasting Major League Baseball for CBS in 1992 and 1993, we had a couple of moments that will live on in baseball history forever. In 1992, the National League Championship Series was decided with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Atlanta ’s Francisco Cabrera singled to left to drive in Sid Bream with the winning run against Pittsburgh. In 1993, I was behind the microphone when Joe Carter hit the walk-off home run to win the World Series for Toronto in Game 6 against Philadelphia. It was just the second time the World Series had ever ended on a home run. I was at the Masters when Greg Norman had his memorable collapse and Nick Faldo won. I was also there the year Tiger Woods absolutely destroyed the field. Recently, I was fortunate to call the historic six-overtime game in the Big East basketball tournament between Syracuse and UConn.
GM: What was the most important lesson you learned about covering sports from your dad?
SEAN: To work hard, be fair, and tell the truth.
GM: And life in general?
SEAN: I learned so much about life from my Dad that it would be hard to capture it in just a few words. The most important lesson I learned was that it is important to treat everyone well. When he died, a number of the people who wrote or spoke tributes about him said much the same thing…that it didn’t matter who you were, what you did…my father treated everyone like they were the most important person he had ever met. And that is because everyone WAS important to him.
GM: Tell us a little about your foundation.
SEAN: The Sean McDonough Charitable Foundation is patterned after Billy Andrade and Brad Faxon’s charity in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. I played in their tremendous celebrity golf tournament at Wannamoisett every year, and I decided that I wanted to do the same thing they did in Massachusetts. Billy and Brad were a great help to me as I was setting up my Foundation and they remain great role models for me or anyone else who cares about trying to make life better for other people. Our Foundation hosts a celebrity golf tournament every September (although we took this year off because of the struggling economy) at the International in Bolton, Massachusetts. We give the money to children’s charities throughout the Commonwealth. In our first seven years, we have distributed $2.3 million to 116 great organizations throughout the state. It is the most meaningful and gratifying thing I have done in my life. Broadcasting games is fun but you are not necessarily making a major contribution to mankind. Through the help of a lot of generous donors and hard-working friends and family members, especially my sister Erin who really runs the Foundation, we are making life better for a lot of children-in-need and their families. We are trying to follow my Dad’s example. There is much more information about the Foundation at .