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Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Woodling: Twibell’s love lies in links

February 27, 2004

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From Lawrence to Tucson to Dallas to Portland to Miami to Boston to Bristol, Roger Twibell has been behind a microphone reporting on just about any sport you can name.

No sport, however, has had as much of a satisfying effect on Twibell as golf.

"I've done nothing but golf for the last four years," Twibell said, "and the thing I've found is that more people give their time, money and knowledge than any other sport."

No doubt that spirit of giving has rubbed off on Twibell, who will join Matt Gogel, another notable Kansas University grad, and George Brett at the first "Kansas Clubs for Kids" function April 24 at Twin Oaks Golf Complex near Eudora.

"It'll be a terrific day," said Twibell, who has been with ESPN for more than 20 years. "I've got kids myself, and it's great you can give them an opportunity to start playing the game."

"Kansas Clubs for Kids" organizers are expecting 1,200 youngsters to show up for the 11 a.m. clinic, autograph session and, finally, presentation of a free golf club, courtesy of PING, to every boy and girl who attends.

Twibell, who lives in the Kansas City area, will emcee the promotional event, which targets youths in Douglas and Johnson counties but is open to any youth between the ages of 6 and 15.

Twibell was in town for a kickoff -- or more appropriately tee-off -- luncheon Thursday at the Hereford House, and it was good to see him again, because we go way back to the early '70s when he was the first full-time sportscaster for Sunflower Cablevision (now Sunflower Broadband).

Those were the days when nobody was really sure what the heck cable television was, or as CNN pioneer Ted Turner likes to say: "I was cable when cable wasn't cool."

In Lawrence, cable was so uncool in 1972 that Twibell's greatest fear was that he was like a tree falling in the forest.

"We had only 500 or maybe 1,000 subscribers," Twibell said. "I didn't know if anybody was watching. We'd shoot a football game from the top of Memorial Stadium with just one camera, then show it the next day. Who wanted to watch a game shot with just one camera? But it was great. You could do basically what you wanted to do."

After graduation from Shawnee Mission North High in 1967, Twibell enrolled at KU and earned a degree in the spring of 1972. Or at least he came close. He needed one course to graduate, and he was able to pick it up in the summer because he was hired to fill an opening at the city's fledgling cable outlet.

Parenthetically, I must report here that Sunflower Broadband is owned by the World Company, which also owns the Journal-World.

As it turned out, Twibell needed one course to graduate from KU and still another course to obtain a job as a sportscaster in a larger television market.

"I couldn't type," Twibell said, laughing. "I had to go to Lawrence High and take a typing class at night so I would be able to type scripts."

After spending eight or nine months at Cable Six, Twibell received a call from a station manager in Tucson, Ariz., who said he was interested and to send him some tapes. In TV, you must send resumes AND tapes.

"Back then there was three-quarter inch tape and one-inch tape," Twibell recalled, "and the guy couldn't run the tape I sent on their machine. But he said he held it up to the light and that it looked like I was OK, so he offered me the job."

Off to Tucson he went. A year later, Twibell was working in Portland, Ore. Two years after that, he was at a station in Dallas. Then on to Miami and Boston and eventually in 1981 to ESPN in Bristol, Conn., where he spent nearly six years as a SportsCenter anchor, then did play-by-play for pro football, college basketball, boxing, tennis, skiing, track and field and, of course, golf.

Attention all parents: Take your kids to Twin Oaks April 24 and, while they're scrambling to obtain the autographs of Brett and Gogel and lining up for their free clubs, ask Twibell for his John Hancock and, if you've a mind to, give him a little grief about that Lawrence High typing class.

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