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Ann Liguori believes that golf can really help women in business

By Cynthia Boal Janssens, Contributor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Ann Liguori is one of America's best knownfemale sports broadcasters. Actually, I hesitate to put that "female" inthere because she has been in this business so long that she cancertainlystand on her own merits.

She is truly a gal who has forged her way in a man's world and done itonher own. It began in 1987 when New York radio station WFAN decided tobecomethe first to go to an all-sports format. Ann was hired to host a talkshow on Saturday mornings. Sixteen years later, she is still with thestation, giving as good as she gets on Sunday evenings from 9p.m.-midnight.She discusses all sports while taking phone calls.

In the meantime, she has formed her own sports production company thattapesand sells the show Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori, has written abook, does motivational speaking and is a corporate spokeswoman.

Ann and I managed to link up this month for a round at the Hyatt GrandCypress Resort in Orlando. She owns a second home in nearby WinterPark,near her sister, and she slips down here whenever she can. When Imentionthat I will be playing with Ann Liguori, the bag boy immediatelyasks:

"You mean Ann Liguori, from WFAN?" Then, looking sheepish, he says: "Youcantell I'm a New Yorker, eh?"

"It's been amazing exposure," she explains when told of her local fame."Ofcourse when I began there were no women in the business hosting sportstalkshows, so there was a lot of pressure to know a lot about all sports. Iworked very, very hard to learn as much as I could."

Much as she enjoys the talk show work, she is proudest of her productioncompany, which she formed in 1989. Since then she and her camera crewhavefilmed over 600 interviews, many of them on the golf course. Thesesyndicated shows are aired on cable networks like New England SportsNetworkand the Sunshine Network in Florida.

"It's fun to run the business but tons of work. I schedule theinterviews,hire the camera crews, supervise the production of the show, get thesponsors and sell the shows. It is extremely rewarding.plus I own all ofthese incredible interviews."

She admits that celebrities like Celine Dion, Matthew McConaughey andJoePesci are very difficult to nail down. "They rarely talk to the mediaformore than a few minutes and usually only to promote a movie or concert,andIneed them for an entire day to interview them while we play golf," sheexplains.

Her interviews, which she also sells on her Web site as individualtapes,arebecoming ever more valuable. Her interviews with the late Ted Williams,Charles Schulz and Joe DiMaggio are already classics. She also hasmanagedto convert these relationships into a book, A Passion for Golf:CelebrityMusings About the Game and audiotape, "A Passion for Life, CelebrityMusingsfrom the Fairways."

She admits that her very first filmed interview was an eye-opener. "The show was taped in 1989 with Mickey Mantle at Mantle's Restaurant in Manhattan. It was 10 in the morning and before we started, Mantle barked at my cameraman to get him a drink. I was shocked! This was long before the public was told that Mantle had a drinking problem. After the interview, Mantle asked me if I would go to dinner with him. When I declined, he said, 'How about your friend Janice?'"

She also has served as a radio correspondent for most of the world'smajorsports events including the Olympics, the Masters, Wimbledon and theRyderand Solheim cups.

But when we are chatting, it is obvious that what Ann wants to talkabout iswomen and golf. A lifelong athlete who earned 16 varsity letters in highschool sports, she says she most likes golf and tennis, the sports youcanplay for a lifetime. She is impressed with my husband, who is playingalongwith us.

"I like to see husbands and wives play together and encourage each otheronthe course. I run into so many men who don't want their wives to playgolf.Why is that? It is good for men and women to do an activity togetherthatboth are passionate about. And because golf takes so much time and cantakeyou to some of the most beautiful resorts in the world, why not spendthetime playing with and discovering the world with your spouse?"

Ann took up golf in her early 20s and today plays to an 11 index. In herpublic speaking, she encourages women to take up the game for some verydifferent reasons.

"I speak to a lot of women's groups about using golf as a vehicle toconductbusiness. They have to realize that spending a day playing golf withclientsis an excellent way to bond with clients and potential businesspartners. Itgets you out of the office. If you are stuck inside you won't be makingasmany deals. I think I land most of my sponsors on or around a golfcourse."

But she particularly advises single women to become active in the game."Iencourage my single friends who want to meet guys to take up golf.Insteadof going to a bar or a club, it is much "safer" to meet men throughgolf."

Ann, who is in her early 40s and single herself, says women shouldrealize that most of the men they will meet playing golf will bereasonably well educated and have a decent income.

"The golf course is really a great place to get to know somebody. Youcanquickly learn about a person's temperament, honesty and integrity. Is heagood sport? Is he patient? You will learn some really important things.Itis all about honesty and character on a golf course."

She adds, "You know, the late Dave Thomas of Wendy's fame told me hewouldnever hire a top executive until he had played golf with them. Hethought itwas that important."

Then Ann switches gears, talking about how Annika Sorenstam performed whenshe played against the guy pros. "Annika is the No. 1 female player intheworld. Why did so many question her ability to play with men? I guesssinceI have played sports with and against guys my whole life, I was annoyedbyall the skeptics out there and the people who did not want her to dowell.""She was fabulous," Ann states. "And I agree with Tiger Woods who saidhewould like to see her play in five or six PGA Tour events to give hermoreopportunity to test her skills. I've interviewed Annika several times,and Iam a great fan of hers. In fact, here's an anecdote:

"I was emceeing a Women In Business luncheon at an LPGA tournament andafter lunch, I escorted Annika as she played a few holes. The galleriesmoved with us to watch, and I was announcing as she played.

"When we got to the first green, she asked me to read about a 20-footputt.So I stood behind her, studied the line, and told her the ball wouldbreakone to two inches, left to right.

"To which Annika promptly replied, 'Well, which is it? One inch or two?'That really showed me how exact and precise the top players in the worldare!"

So what does she think about Augusta National accepting women as members? "Because the club stages a public event, I think the club should be integrated. I think Augusta National will eventually do the right thing and invite women to join.

"However, I do think many overlooked what was really one of the bigsportsstories and that is when Augusta National said 'No, thank you' to their sponsors last year. In the business world of sports, that is totally unheardof."

And what one thing has Ann learned from playing golf with so manycelebrities? "The top athletes in the world are humbled by the game. Themost successful people in various fields cannot, despite their workethic,determination, mental and physical strength, master it.

"They are all challenged by golf and that's why they are so passionateaboutthe game and keep coming back for more."

Ann Liguori's books and tapes can be purchased online atannliguori.com."Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori" airs each week in top marketsthroughoutthe country on regional sports cable networks. Check your locallistings.

Her book' "A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game" (TaylorPublishing 1998), includes interviews with celebrities like SylvesterStallone, Kevin Costner, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Yogi Berra, Jim Brown,AliceCooper, Glenn Frey and Smokey Robinson about their interest in golf.

She also produced and narrated an audiobook , "A Passion for Life,CelebrityMusings from the Fairways" (Audio Book Club, 2000), with interviews fromvarious celebrities including Celine Dion, Matthew McConaughey, BrettFavre,Joe Pesci and the late Charles Schulz.

Cynthia Boal Janssens is a former newspaper writer and editor turned freelance writer. She is the former travel editor and Sunday magazine editor of The Detroit News. In addition, she has worked for newspapers in California, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Ohio University.

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