APRIL 2, 2012
RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA | Fifteen
minutes before airtime at the Kraft Nabisco
Championship, the usual amount of
frenetic energy is bouncing about inside the
broadcast booth behind the 18th green.
Golf Channel producers and directors
are chirping instructions into the earpieces
of anchor Terry Gannon and analyst Judy
Rankin. Greg Thorne, who runs the small
trailer that doubles as the studio, is relaying messages to others and making last-minute adjustments to the camera.
Rankin is studying notes and the yardage book that are nearby. In front to her
left is a large television monitor that shows
the scores. On her right is an even larger
screen showing the telecast.
Always prepared and ready to go on the
air, Rankin is trying to quell the telltale
signs of nervousness. There is a slight
fidget in her chair and minor handwring-ing. Thorne announces the number seven,
counting down from there, much like a
launch of a NASA space shuttle flight, to
signal the beginning of the first-round telecast. The microphones open, the camera
flicks on and the nervousness Rankin had
instantly washes away.
After Gannon introduces her, Rankin
speaks with that smooth, gentle, reassuring voice that reminds anyone who
has heard it like a graceful, authoritative
melody. Despite the chaos associated with
live television, Rankin’s demeanor matches
the voice, steady and unflappable.
Achieving that state this week has been
harder than any previous broadcast in her
more than 30-year television career or any
tournament the Hall of Fame golfer ever
entered. While the champion of the Kraft
Nabisco Championship will ceremoni-
ously jump into Poppie’s Pond beside the
18th green, Rankin will have already been
awash in memories of Mission Hills Coun-
try Club and continue the grieving process.
“We were always together. It’s
a big hole for me and not one I
envisioned going away for a long
time.” – Judy Rankin, on husband Yippy
of 45 years, lost his battle with throat
cancer Feb. 24. The two were inseparable
and the Palm Springs area was a big part
of their lives. They owned a home here for
several years. Rankin won this event in
1976, represented the course and is still
an honorary member. If it wasn’t for her
association with this event, she’d be in her
home back in Midland, Tex., rattling around
an empty house filled with memories.
Their son, Walter Jr., nicknamed, Tuey,
has taken over a parental role with his
mother, and urged her to return from an
eight-month hiatus from television.
“My son has reminded me how lucky I
am,” Rankin said. “I think it would be hard
to be in the house by myself.”
Not that being at Mission Hills Country
for more than 30 years.