Peter Alliss made golf worth watching with his wit and wisdom

St Andrews seemed eerily silent on a sunny Sunday just before midday. It was as though the Home of Golf was paying its own tribute to the ‘Voice of Golf’.
Peter Alliss sits in the royal box on Centre Court at Wimbledon with his wife Jackie in 2013. Picture: Glyn Kirl/AFP.Peter Alliss sits in the royal box on Centre Court at Wimbledon with his wife Jackie in 2013. Picture: Glyn Kirl/AFP.
Peter Alliss sits in the royal box on Centre Court at Wimbledon with his wife Jackie in 2013. Picture: Glyn Kirl/AFP.

News had just broken that Peter Alliss, the legendary BBC golf commentator, had passed away peacefully at the age of 89.

The majority of people walking the St Andrews streets may have been blissfully unaware of the sad news, but social media had gone into meltdown.

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The flood of tributes was comparable with the reaction to the passing of two golfing greats, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros.

Though a fine player himself, winning 31 times as a professional, Alliss may not have touched the same heights as that duo with a golf club in his hand, but he earned greatness himself in the game when he picked up a microphone.

For someone like me born in the mid 1960s, listening to Alliss along with the likes of Henry Longhurst, Alex Hay, Clive Clark and Mark McCormack was part of my golfing education.

It was a joy to hear his dulcet tones for more than 50 years and no one has, or ever will, come close to delivering wit and wisdom in golf commentary the way the great man did.

Latterly, he would often sail close to the wind in the PC world we now live in, but he still had that uncanny knack of delivering something funny, fitting and unforgettable.

In my time covering golf, it’s been a pleasure to sit in interview rooms around the world listening to the likes of Palmer, Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

It was equally thrilling, though, travelling down to a club near Leeds a few years ago for a one-to-one interview with Alliss and he didn’t disappoint.

By the time he got round to me, he’d had a couple of gin and tonics and regaled me with story after story about his life, as well as offering incisive opinion on the hot topics in the game at that time.

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It had been a long time since Alliss had been seen in a media centre at events, though his workload had decreased considerably as the BBC’s golf coverage had effectively been reduced to highlights of The Open, the Masters and the Ryder Cup.

My most recent sightings of him had been in Atlanta airport on the Monday evening after a Masters as he was accompanied on the journey home by his wife, Jackie.He’d normally have gone unnoticed in that part of the world, but not that week and certainly not in the eyes of British golf fans in particular.

Alliss touched the lives of so many people over the years and did as much for the game as some of the top players.

“I wasn’t a huge fan of golf, but the commentary of Peter Alliss made it worth watching,” wrote one individual in reply to one of those many tributes.

Golf has lost someone very special and we’ll all miss him. Indeed, there will only ever be one ‘Voice of Golf’.

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