Who’s Here: Ann Liguori, Broadcaster

Ann Liguori loves coffee.

“My favorite thing in the whole world to do—aside from golfing in Ireland—is sipping cappuccino at Caffé Florian in St. Mark’s Square (in Venice),” the famed sports broadcaster confirms over a cup of java at Pierre’s in Bridgehampton, which is surely a close second to that Venetian brew.

But given the passion she’s shown in every phase of her illustrious career—as a sports broadcaster, president of Ann Liguori Productions, author, philanthropist, avid golfer, spokesperson for Cross Golf Apparel—Liguori is clearly driven by more than the simple perk caffeine gives. “I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting when I was 3 years old,” she says. “I knew that I would have an interview show, and everything I did was geared toward preparing myself for a career in broadcasting.”

Sports broadcasting was chosen over news because it also combined Liguori’s affinity for athletics. (Not every small town has someone passionate enough to start a woman’s track team, as Liguori and her father did in Brecksville, Ohio after she showed an interest in the sport.) Interviewing drew her attention over hard reporting because she could share stories she hoped viewers could identify with.

The latter is still drives Liguori today, as the Westhampton resident currently hosts a weekly show on WPPB 88.3 FM and www.peconicpublicbroadcasting.org, “Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori,” every Saturday morning. “I pick issues that are not only important to me, but can impact people in a positive way,” she says of the subjects she covers and the guests she invites on air.

The name “Sports Innerview” even came about because of Liguori’s penchant for speaking with subjects on an intimate level. “I get these guests to open up and share things that they might not tell other people. I thought that ‘Sports Innerview’ would be cool, and I copyrighted the name.”

Liguori first brought “Sports Innerview” to cable in 1989, and Yankee great Mickey Mantle was her first guest. The show aired weekly on MSG Network, Fox Sports New York and national regional sports networks until 2003. To date, “Sports Innerview” is cable’s longest-running sports interview series produced by a woman. Liguori owns the show under the umbrella of her Ann Liguori Productions, Inc. Maintaining the rights to these programs is a savvy business move that she believes sets her apart in the sports broadcasting industry.

That, and being a woman in a traditionally testosterone-heavy field.

“I had a lot of very intense pressure on me in the early days to know as much as I could. Hosting a call-in show (on WFAN), you have to know the answer or you look like an idiot,” says Liguori, who joined the WFAN team at the network’s inception 1987. “I was the first woman to host a show on WFAN—a call-in sports show called ‘Hey Liguori, What’s the Story?’”

As recently as June, Liguori was named one of the top 40 women in sports media in the last 40 years by the Los Angeles Daily News. But confirmation of her successes has come throughout the years in other landmark career moments—or even anecdotes. Like talking to Tim Tebow about his decision to join the Jets. Or watching Greg Norman’s family helicopter in on the 10th fairway of Doonberg Golf Club in Ireland, of which Liguori is a founding member.

Liguori has covered 30 tennis U.S. Opens, the Masters since 1998—the Augusta classic is her favorite annual event—and six Olympic games. She’s interviewed hundreds of legends, from Ted Williams to Brett Favre, Matthew McConaghey to Celine Dion, the non-golfers and Hollywood personalities mostly coming as a result of Conversations with Ann Liguori, a Golf Channel show Liguori was tapped to develop (and then produce and host) even before the Golf Channel’s inception.

“Sylvester Stallone was my first interview. I had to convince him to come on a show that wasn’t even on the air yet,” says Liguori, who highlighted these talks in the book A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game.

A graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa (where she was homecoming queen—“fun,” she says, citing her “jockette” reputation), Liguori came to New York to pursue her passion on the prestigious International Radio and Television Society (IRTS) Fellowship. She moved to the city having only visited “like three times,” alone and broke but also right after losing her dad to stomach cancer. Then her older brother died of leukemia at the age of 22—only a year and a half after her dad’s passing. “I figured at that point if I could deal with those two tragedies, I could do anything,” says Liguori.

While “anything” has obviously included becoming one of the most recognized names in sports media, Liguori has also parlayed her success into starting the Ann Liguori Foundation to raise money and awareness for cancer prevention and care.

“I started the foundation four years ago, after hosting a celebrity golf tournament for the American Cancer Society for many many years,” says Liguori, whose own foundation hosts a charity golf tournament on the East End and a dinner dance at Duckwalk vineyards.

“Now that I have my own foundation, it gives me the freedom to help more organizations and more people, which is so satisfying.”

Aside from covering the links, Liguori is renowned for her skills on the golf course (her handicap index is 11), often finding herself as the only female at many of the invite-only charity and celebrity golf events. Impressively, Liguori didn’t play the game until a Phys Ed requirement in college prompted her to pick up a set of clubs, and she didn’t really get into the sport until she moved to New York.

In addition to playing the local golf courses, Liguori has become an avid hiker, biker and runner. Dog Skye, a golden retriever, is always close by on her outdoor pursuits.

Liguori has also served on the Women’s Advisory Board of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center since the Board was formed 10 years ago. As a media consultant, she works with IGHL, Independent Group Home Living, an organization based in Manorville that assists the developmentally disabled.

As the year wraps up, Lance Armstrong’s performance-enhancing-drugs scandal and the scandal at Penn State top Liguori’s list of the biggest issues in sports. “They say that sports are a microcosm of society and here are two issues that are, very unfortunately, very prevalent in our world.”

Though clearly not one to ignore big, tough issues, Liguori likes to include inspirational, positive stories in her shows. “I like talking to intelligent people who are multidimensional and sharing their success stories.”

Similarly, on her CBS blog “I write what I truly believe and I don’t compromise.” Liguori refused to interview O.J. Simpson when given the opportunity by the Golf Channel awhile back. “If people don’t agree with me, that’s their prerogative, but I’m going to write what I feel. And I’m going to look for subjects that are unique in that not everyone is covering them.”

For additional information or to browse and purchase Liguori’s wide collection of interviews, head to www.annliguori.com.

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