A complex combination of being irreverent, whimsical, witty, mischievous, humble, grandiose, poorly educated yet with a wonderful linguistic talent, is how I would describe Peter Alliss.
There are so many interesting stories about the man that make up the fabric of his career, he could make watching golf on a Thursday afternoon the most watchable and amusing television.
For example, talking about Carol Vorderman from Countdown he once said, he was watching her the other day and he “got ‘aroused’…. 7 letters, not bad for somebody that left school at the age of 15”. With his commentary colleagues laughing hysterically in the background, the master of timing knew when to say something and when to leave a space.
His induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame is the stuff of legend, where he stood for 15 minutes, talked about his life, his love, and losing his virginity.
He was the largest baby ever to be born in England at 14 pounds 11 ounces, and he quipped “his mother didn’t ride her bike for seven months after his birth”. As a teenager he ‘bordered on beautiful’ - his words - yet was able to deliver this phrase with a self-humility and an understanding that he was mocking himself at the same time.
He played in eight Ryder Cups, won over 30 times on the European Tour, raised over £7,000,000 for disadvantaged children requiring wheelchairs. A hugely generous man with his time and a wonderful friend of the game.
The tributes have been pouring in from all over the world describing this man who was able to, as Kipling said; “walk with Kings nor lose the common touch.” He famously had personalised number plates on his car which read “PUT 3” which referred to his condition of the yips which put paid to his professional playing career. The irony was that it was on his Rolls Royce.
People flocked in their thousands to try and get tickets for An Audience with Alliss, where he would walk on stage, park himself in a very comfortable leather seat and talk about golf, life and humour for up to four hours. Rarely has someone looked more comfortable in front of an audience or behind a microphone than Mr Alliss.
John Cleese has said of his passing, “The most sane and comforting voice I ever heard. I always thought that I could cope with the ending of the world if Peter was commentating on it.” Such was his reach, I’m not sure John Cleese plays golf.
He worked last month on the Masters’ coverage, and passed away at age 89. For some reason his humour became a little more risqué after lunch, his commentating colleagues put that down to a cheeky burgundy used to wash down whatever was on his plate.
A proud and jocular Brit, I remember him commentating at the Open when it was last held Royal St Georges. The cameras had zoomed in on a huge storm which was about to come over the English Channel, he said, “Ah well, there’s good news and there’s bad news, the bad news is that it’s coming this way and is going to affect the tournament, the good news is that the French currently have it.”
I grew up watching Peter commentate on pro-celebrity golf, as a golf starved teenager, to be able to watch Seve, Trevino, Watson and Crenshaw play with celebrities, normally at Glen Eagles, was heavenly.
Quintessentially British, without doubt the greatest ever golf commentator, and it could be argued no one has surpassed him in any other sports.
If you want to remember him just go onto YouTube and watch his Hall of Fame speech. It will be well worth 15 minutes of your time.