History of Golf on ESPN
- ESPN has aired professional and amateur golf in some form every year since the formation of the network in 1979. The PGA TOUR, LPGA and senior golf have all aired on ESPN as have celebrity events, college golf and prestigious amateur events.
- ESPN aired its first golf event on its second day on the air – September 8, 1979 – with coverage of the LPGA Sahara Open.
- In the early 1980’s, ESPN’s telecasts of the early rounds of major tournaments provided viewers the new opportunity to watch all four rounds of a major.
- From its start with one golf event in 1979, ESPN increased to 30 by 1985, 53 in 1992, 74 in 1995 and 86 in 1997.
- ESPN has had relationships with all four of golf’s major championships during its 40+ years of existence.
- ESPN has televised the first and second rounds of the Masters Tournament every year since 2008.
The PGA Championship
- ESPN was the PGA Championship’s original cable television home and aired the first two rounds of the event in 1982 and 1983 and then from 1985-1990.
- The event returned to ESPN in 2020 in a 11-year deal that continues through the 2030 event.
- The event aired on ABC from 1965-1990.
The U.S. Open
- ESPN televised the first and second rounds of the U.S. Open for 33 years (1982-2014).
- The U.S. Open was in the ABC/ESPN family from 1966-2014.
- The Open was in the ESPN/ABC family for 54 years from 1962-2015.
- ABC first aired highlights on “Wide World of Sports” in 1962.
- ABC first aired live final round coverage in 1966
- ESPN had cable rights from 1983-2002 and returned in 2010.
- All four rounds aired on ESPN from 2010 through 2015.
- ESPN holds the record for the largest golf audience ever on cable – 4.9 million for Tiger Woods’ return to golf at the 2010 Masters.
- ESPN’s largest audience for any U.S. Open telecast was a Monday playoff in 2008 with a 3.6 U.S. rating and 4.8 million viewers.
- The Open’s final round in 2013 averaged 4.4 million viewers, event cable viewership record.
PGA TOUR events have aired on ESPN platforms in many forms over the years, including television and streaming.
- ESPN signed its first contract with the PGA TOUR in November of 1983 to provide live coverage of at least four events in 1984.
- ESPN carried a robust schedule of regular PGA TOUR events through most of the 1980’s, 1990’s and into the early 2000’s.
- ESPN streamed Feature Group and Feature Hole coverage from select PGA TOUR FedEx Cup Playoffs events in 2011 and 2012.
- In 2018, coverage from 18 PGA TOUR events aired on ESPN’s new ESPN+ service.
- The first golf ever televised on ESPN was the LPGA Sahara Open on Sept. 8, 1979, ESPN’s second day on the air.
- ESPN televised a schedule of regular LPGA events from 1979-2009.
- ESPN aired the first two rounds of the Women’s British Open from 1982-2002 and all four rounds from 2010-2015.
- ESPN aired the first two rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open from 1982-2014.
Senior Golf/Champions Tour
- ESPN televised regular PGA Champion’s Tour events from 1982-2000.
- ESPN’s extensive coverage of the Senior Tour helped catapult it into one of the most successful professional sports ventures of the 1980’s.
- ESPN aired the first two rounds of the Senior Open Championship from 1982-2002 and all four rounds from 2010-2015.
- ESPN aired the first two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open from 1986-2014.
- ESPN aired Day 1 Ryder Cup matches in 2008, 2010 and 2012
- The Ryder Cup last aired on ESPN in 2012
- ESPN has aired all four rounds of the Latin America Amateur Championship since its formation in 2015.
- ESPN has aired all four rounds of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship since 2013.