Di and Nick Dougherty: Golf’s Power Couple

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Di Dougherty plays a shot during the Pro-Am tournament prior to the start of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club on September 18, 2019 in Virginia Water, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

As lifelong golfers and accomplished television presenters for Sky Sports, Di and Nick Dougherty are two of golf’s most passionate advocates. Di took up golf at the age of six and played all the way through for the Cheshire County Teams, while Nick is a three-time winner on the European Tour who won the 2005 Caltex Masters, the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the 2009 BMW International Open. In this exclusive interview, the couple discuss the Solheim Cup, the future of women’s sport and watching along with Rory, among other things…

Di, you were a host ambassador for the 2019 Solheim Cup. What was it like to host the event at Gleneagles in Scotland?

Hosting the Solheim Cup last year was one of my career highlights. To stand on that first tee and be part of history and witness what was involved that week was something I’ll never forget. It was one of my favourite golfing weeks I’ve ever experienced. The buzz of the crowd and the noise levels, the passion for the game, the sportswomanship, or sportsmanship, was outstanding. Everyone who walked onto that first tee wanted to compete at the highest level and wanted to show the game off at the highest level. I’m so proud of what they did up in Scotland. Both teams performed outstandingly well both on and off the course and I just think the game can only grow from there. It was definitely the best Solheim Cup to date and I’ve still got goose bumps thinking about the crowds and the cheers when they hit the first tee shot. I do believe that women’s golf will go from strength to strength because we have to keep growing the game like that and putting on these big exhibitions.

Nick: Di was having the time of her life. If Di could design a job, it would be walking out in front of a theatre of people outdoors and entertaining them and getting them cheering. It was her perfect job.

Di: You’ve hit the nail on the head. It was literally one of the best things I’ve ever done. Talking to the crowd and interacting with the players and the captains, who were so laid back when they came onto the tee, it’s free wheeling it, basically.

As a married couple, you are able to share your passion for golf and broadcasting… do you have the best jobs in the world?

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 16: Nick Dougherty of England and Wayne Riley of Australia working for Sky Television during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 16, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Di: It’s an excellent job and I love the buzz of live telly, of going live at the start of the show. There is nothing that gets the heart racing quite as much. I think Nick has compared it in the past to playing, of being on the first tee.

Nick: Playing golf and doing live TV is similar, because when you’re presenting, you’re steering the ship. It’s a different role and as a player I spent a lot of time answering questions and when you’re a pundit you keep on that role. As a presenter, you’re there to provide the story, so you ask the questions but you already know the direction to go with it, so you’re directing the way the conversation is going to go and it’s a lot of fun to be able to do that. The buzz of it and also the pressure, especially in big events, like Di doing the World Cup in netball and for me, doing the Masters and the major championships, there is a lot of excitement around that and you don’t want to drop the ball. There are a lot of people relying on you, teams, not just in vision, but behind the camera and in the gallery and we are all giving our absolute all because there is a huge amount of pride around making this kind of programming. It’s different to playing but there is a huge amount of excitement around it.

Nick: you have interviewed some great characters on Sky Sports.  Who has been your favourite so far?

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND – MAY 08: Nick Dougherty, Sky Sports Presenter and Tommy Fleetwood of England at a Sky Golf Master Class during the pro-am event prior to the Betfred British Masters at Hillside Golf Club on May 08, 2019 in Southport, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

I’ve been doing Tee Time Tips Talks during the lockdown and it’s been a great way to talk to players away from tournament golf and they lower their guard a little bit. Understandably, sports people don’t like to put themselves out there because they don’t want to fall flat on their face. They are only people, after all. It’s hard at tournaments to get them to open up completely, but in the down time, they had time to reflect and became more open to speaking. The #WatchalongwithRory on the main channel was superb and getting an insight into what he’s all about. He’s a great talker and very articulate and spoke to us about managing ego and getting to the top of the game. We assume that top sports stars have big egos but he spoke about how he’s managing to get to the top by quieting that side of him. The conversations move beyond normal golf chat, so it’s been very interesting. We did a really nice one with Georgia Hall and her win at the 2018 Women’s British Open, getting her collected thoughts on what happened in the aftermath, when it’s all settled in. You can ask her awkward questions, you can ask if did you believe it would happen or did you ever doubt yourself; things you wouldn’t ask in that moment necessarily because it’s an uncomfortable question, but the professionals have been more open during the lockdown period and hopefully, on the back of lockdown, at the right times, these are the sorts of things that will keep going because they have been really well received by the viewing public, whether it be on digital platforms or through linear television.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 16: Nick Dougherty of England the former European Tour player working as the lead announcer for Sky Television during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 16, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

How do you fit your jobs in with raising two young children?

Di: We have the most incredible lady, called Mandy, who lives at the end of our road who is part of our marriage and we couldn’t do without her! We don’t have family down in London as both of our families are up north and we need someone to go to. Everyone needs a Mandy.com! Max is eight in August and Bridget will be five in December. It’s a challenge and they have completely different personalities, which is incredible to see. In terms of sport, we want them to develop naturally and there’s definitely no pressure. It’s all about enjoyment and enjoying being a kid.

Nick: If they want to follow in my footsteps, hopefully they will play the game, because it offers so many wonderful things, not just about the sport but in terms of life skills such as integrity, work ethic, discipline, camaraderie, but I semi-hope they don’t want to become tour players because it’s really hard! Having been through that and experienced it, succeeded but also failed at the end, it’s a tough life and it’s unpredictable and you can do everything as well as you can, you can be the hardest worker in the room, but it doesn’t guarantee success, which is not the same in every job. You have a great chance in a lot of jobs, but golf doesn’t follow that pattern, unfortunately. I never worked harder at the game than when I was terrible at it! Golf will be a big part of their lives but I’m secretly hoping they will want to be doctors!

Di: Sport is a really difficult career and in my family, I’ve watched my cousin, Will Greenwood, go through the rugby ranks and play in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The hard work, dedication and sacrifices mean it’s not an easy gig!

What are you looking forward this year?

Nick: I’m looking forward to getting back to work. All I’ve ever known is travel and being busy, so I found being at home during the lockdown period quite mentally challenging. Di is much better at being in the home environment. I’m looking forward to being more active. I know we are probably not going to be getting on planes much and there is a very good chance that we could be covering golf from the studio for the rest of this season. It will be good for people to have live golf to watch. We’ve been reflecting on these great epic tournaments on TV but at the same time, there is nothing like live sport and not knowing what’s going to happen. It always feels great to entertain people with live sport, whether it be the netball that Di does or the golf that I cover.

Di: I’m so excited about live sport. Week in, week out, we expect it to be on the television and when it’s taken away it’s tough. I’m looking forward to the Super League and think England netball will get the 2020 season done. It’s been great to see sporting communities come together and to see how much of a part sport plays in our lives and how much it is a game changer in terms of mental health. From the England netballers to the LET golfers, all of the golf and sporting communities, there have been so many exercises and programmes that you can follow to keep the endorphins up and keep yourself going. It’s been a mental struggle for a lot of people so to have a workout every day has been a saviour for so many and I think going forwards, there will continue to be a focus on mental health, because we’ve got to look after our bodies but we’ve got to look after our brains as well. Sport has such an important role to play.

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Ian Finnis (l) and Di Dougherty watch a shot played by Rachel Brown-Finnis during the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am at Wentworth Golf Club on September 18, 2019 in Virginia Water, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Cannon/David Cannon/Getty Images)

What can be done to raise the women’s game?

Nick: I think one of the things that women’s golf can do to close the gap on men’s golf, and they need assistance from the men’s game to be able to do that as well, is to showcase those personalities and provide those opportunities. We like to root for people, not golf swings and if there’s something that resonates with us, something we like about a player as a person, then we are going to pull for them. I find that with so many of the female players who I know, whether it be Mel Reid, Georgia Hall and Annabel Dimmock, they are bubby characters and they are fun to be around and if I enjoy being around them, I’m going to root for them. The lust and life that the players have for the game makes you want to follow in their footsteps.

I think the LET should feel very proud of the direction it’s going in. I know there was a tough period of time and golf in itself, as great as it is, in terms of sponsorship it’s been quite tough across all levels for both genders and that’s with Tiger. One day, he’s not going to be here and he’s flown the flag for all golfers as he transcends the sport. He won’t last forever and we need characters to carry the game. We all have to do our bit to showcase the game and I think the LET should be really proud of the forward movement to help the tour prosper by working with the LPGA. I am just gutted that we won’t get to see some of the events because of the bigger picture of what’s happened with coronavirus. Understandably, golf takes a back seat, but as supporters of men’s golf, women’s golf and golf all over, the biggest role we have to play is bringing new people into the game and especially children. We should all keep our heads up because the game is moving in the right way and what should have been there for the LET this year, will be there in the future. As much as we are having to sit out and wait for what should have been a brilliant season and a blossoming of the LET this year, it’s important to keep the spirit, keep the faith and the players have got to come out strong and keep spreading the word when they get that opportunity, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.

July 18, 2020

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