Remembering Peter Alliss: URI Golf Coach Gregg Burke

Gregg Burke posted this tribute on his personal Facebook page and is allowing GolfNewsRI to run it.

My arms grow weary this 2020 raking leaves fallen from my  memories tree.

This one marks a sadness that makes the raking all the worse.

I spent two Father’s Days with Peter Alliss, the glorious voice of BBC and ABC golf coverage. I am honored to just be able to start a sentence that maybe only his six children and his ABC family could have.

Peter Alliss PHOTO: European Tour

The accomplishment of 8 Ryder Cups, 50 course designs, 20 professional tournament wins, and a spot at the adults’  table  of the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with that British crustiness, made him daunting and unapproachable that June week in Brookline. 

 I was immediately and quite obviously the low man on any totem imaginable in the cramped ABC trailer above the 18th hole at The Country Club for US Open #1 on my CV.

What a roster (and an asterisk) of talent all squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder for four long days of televised sport.  

There was my dear friend Jack Whitaker, Wide World of Sports voice Jim McKay, commentators Alliss and Dave Marr. Oh, and the kid who learned to play golf on Norwood Field and at Goddard Park. 

(First time I ever played was with my dad who was also playing for the very first time that April morning. I reminded him of that each of the two Father’s Days I called from Brookline and Rochester, working that booth for ABC).

Mr. Alliss was both appreciative and formal. I could tell by the way he never used my name and only nodded in my general direction each morning as he entered the booth and in the darkness of the evening when he exited.

But Sunday morning as he entered all blustery and incredibly prepared for 6 hours of coverage, he took pause to meet my gaze as I wished him the happiest of Father’s Days. A pat on my shoulder later he was at his perch, working.

He slipped out that night with nary a tootles.

Oak Hill a year later.  Same group. Same event. The  Whitaker, McKay, Marr Trio were nearly effusive in their greetings and warmth. 

Alliss nodded in my general direction.

After Saturday’s coverage I was with a Holy Cross friend and Jack  at a place serving cocktails when Aliss wandered by and repeated the shoulder pat of a year ago and said to Jack (and specifically not to me): ‘The lad has had quite a week of very good work now hasn’t he?’

No smile. Nothing more. Just that classic British approximation of warmth and affection.

The next day was another Father’s Day greeting and another pat.  Before he left that Sunday marking a consecutive Curtis Strange Open win, he said ‘well all right now Gregg, here’s hoping we see you again next year.’

Nothing more.

Such a glorious man and unique talent. Now gone.

I have had my own Father’s Days since. They are wonderful in a way no one can know unless they’ve had their own.

But they carry a sadness these days of slower pace, arrested career acceleration, and too many days raking leaves.

The US Open.

That small booth on 18 for 12 days in two magical Junes. 

Marr, McKay, Whitaker and now Alliss.  Even my dad at the other end of the phone for Father’s Day.

All gone.

Only the asterisk is left to tell the story of a climb from Goddard Park to the booth at 18.

RIP Mr. Alliss.

Gregg Burke is the head coach of the University of Rhode Island golf team. 

He is entering his 16th year as coach. 

 Prior to becoming URI’s first-ever full time golf coach, he served as assistant during the 2010-11 academic year and spent 2004-10 as Rhode Island’s deputy director of athletics. 

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