Tom Abbott (Photo by Curt Littlecott)
A Mercer alumnus will be calling the shots for the Olympic golf events in Tokyo. Tom Abbott, a 2004 graduate and 2015 inductee in the Mercer Athletic Hall of Fame, will be one of the NBC Sports announcers for the men’s and women’s golf competitions.
The London native has always had a passion for golf and broadcasting, and these two interests intersected perfectly in his career. Abbott came to Mercer on a golf scholarship in 2000 but eventually turned his full focus to broadcasting through the School of Business’ Managed Academic Path to Success (MAPS) program.
He produced and hosted a Mercer sports recap called “Mercer in a Minute” for a local TV station and contributed sports content for a weekly news show on the “Mercer99” campus station. After graduating with a media and business degree, Abbott interned with an Atlanta news station before becoming a sports anchor in Charlottesville, Virginia. He joined the Golf Channel in 2005, where he started out doing behind-the-scenes and on-air work for the network’s UK channel and worked his way up the ranks.
“Over the years, I’ve done a number of different roles and worked on a number of different shows,” Abbott said. “Over the past 11 or so years, I’ve been one of the announcers on our LPGA coverage. I’ve been lucky in that I get to do some of the big men’s events as well as an announcer.”
Abbott doesn’t do much studio work anymore but keeps a busy schedule as he travels each year to 25-28 tournaments, all of which air on the Golf Channel or parent network NBC Sports. Between 65% and 70% of his work is on the ladies’ tour, and the rest is on the men’s tour. He regularly covers the U.S. Open, the Open (formerly the British Open), Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, the five biggest events in women’s golf, and the Solheim Cup.
“That’s a great thrill to be a part of those big events,” he said. “Calling the big shots coming down the stretch and being involved in exciting moments in the competition is really what it’s all about. You really feel the energy of what’s going on in television. Golf isn’t always as exciting as a lot of other sports, but that final round, there are always some really exciting moments of being a part of that.”
Tom Abbott (Photo by Curt Littlecott)
Right now, Abbott is in France for the Amundi Evian Championship, and he’ll arrive in Stamford, Connecticut — the headquarters for NBC Sports — on Tuesday for the Olympics coverage. With COVID restrictions and logistical concerns, much of the Olympics coverage this year is being done at various sites outside Tokyo, including the NBC Sports headquarters. The NBC team will also have some commentators stationed in Tokyo to lend their expertise on elements that need an in-person perspective.
“Being part of the team and part of the Olympics on NBC and all of the excitement is going to be really cool,” he said. “The Olympics is really the most important, if not one of the most important, franchises and parts of NBC’s programming. We have Sunday night football and some other big championships, but the Olympics is a really big part of our makeup. To be involved in that is really quite special.”
Abbott was in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009 on the “momentous day” when the Olympic Committee made the decision to add golf as an Olympic sport after a more than 100-year hiatus. Golf was officially reinstated for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Abbott traveled there to announce the women’s competition.
“There was a big build up to Rio, and then being part of golf in the Olympics in Rio was a very unique thing. People didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
Abbott is excited to have the opportunity to call both the men’s and women’s games this year. With the time difference in Tokyo, he will be working in the evenings in Stamford. The men’s competition will air in the U.S. on July 28-31 and the women’s competition on Aug. 3-6, with air times being from roughly 6:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. ET. In addition, from 8-10 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2, Abbott will host the “Live From” preview show in the studio.
“A lot of the Olympics will be telling stories about athletes that are playing. There will be a number of people in the field that may not be recognizable to our fans,” Abbott said. “You need to tell people about the players that they’re going to be seeing. It’s a lot about telling stories and introducing the audience to these players.”
Olympic golf presents some aspects that don’t normally come up in a standard tournament.
“Usually we talk about one winner. With the Olympics, you’re watching all three races, the first place, the second place and the third place,” he said. “There’s still a huge amount on the line if there’s a battle for third position. That means a great deal for a player to win bronze. It’s a big story line.”
Abbott said the U.S. has a really good chance to earn medals in both the men’s and women’s competitions, and a win could give the women’s game a big boost in America. Being an England native, he’d love to see the British players perform well too.
Tom Abbott works the Solheim in 2019. (Photo by Gabe Roux)