ESPN West Coast SportsCenter host Stan Verrett on golf media moments, learning to play and his dream job of broadcasting from ESPN Zone at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles
By Jill Painter
Stan Verrett, 42, didn’t start playing golf until he was 32 and it was at the urging of his brother, Rory. Now that he’s recently moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles to anchor the late-night West Coast SportsCenter on ESPN (alongside Neil Everett), he can play year-round. Verrett was born and raised in New Orleans, and both his boyhood home and first golf course he played on were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Verrett has played golf only twice since he moved to L.A., at Riviera CC and Angeles National GC. He’s putting golf on hold until he finds a permanent residence.
You’ve been working for SportsCenter since 2000? Is this your dream job?
Yes, I’ve always known I wanted to be on SportsCenter, especially the late-night SportsCenter. That’s the show I watched and always wanted to be on. Being in L.A. is an added benefit. This is the show where all the games are over. You put the sports night to bed. There’s a sense of satisfaction that when you get to bed, nothing else is happening.
What was the process like in moving to Los Angeles? We heard you were one of the first to volunteer to move out West.
I came to visit a friend two years ago. I was out here four days and the weather was perfect for four straight days. How many places anywhere have that kind of weather? I was sold on the Southern California mix of cultures and corresponding food and diversity. I’m a lifelong learner and there’s so much to learn. It’s an amazing melting pot.
How is the Los Angeles show good for television? Was there really an East Coast bias?
I think that was the perception, whether that was reality or not. I’ve been explaining to people that the last several years, the Red Sox won two of the past four World Series and the Giants and Patriots have won a string of Super Bowls. In two of the major sports, the East Coast teams were really good. We can’t not cover them. You have to cover the teams that are most relevant. I don’t think anyone can look at our coverage of the Lakers and say they don’t get fair coverage.
What’s been the best golf moment you’ve covered for SportsCenter?
Because my job is as an anchor, we don’t spend lots of time in the field, but I’ll never forget Tiger’s first win at the Masters. It was obvious we were seeing the beginning of something special, something we might never see again, particularly with all of the symbolism and history involved. It was the Obama moment of the sports world and for it to happen at the Masters with all the complicated racial history of that venue was special.
What’s your best moment on the golf course?
I’ve never had an ace. I played with three of my closest friends, a regular group, and we were at Whiskey Creek (near Washington D.C.). None of us had ever seen each other play before. Whoever won this round had bragging rights forever. The 18th hole was a par-5 and my second shot hooked into really gnarly rough on the left side of the fairway. I was now 157 yards out. I figured, OK, that was it for me. I was two strokes down and a friend was sitting in the fairway. He put his third shot in the water and took a 9. I didn’t really have a shot, but I concentrated as best as I could, put a good swing on it and hit one of the best shots of my life. I had no business hitting a 6-iron to 5 feet. And then I missed the birdie putt but tapped in for par. I went to the golf shop, bought a Whiskey Creek golf shirt, and even though it’s in tatters I always make sure I put that on for a bit, just for intimidation.
How did you get your start in golf?
My younger brother picked it up before I did. He said, “Hey man, this is something we can do the rest of our lives. We can spend time together and travel and bring our families,” even though at the time we didn’t have families. I’ve always been athletically inclined and very competitive. We started playing and practicing. At one point, our parents were worried because we were so competitive. There was a sibling rivalry and it was intense. But one day we both realized, ‘wait a minute, there’s no U.S. Open on the line here.’ We decided to just relax and enjoy the game. Another benefit is that most of my friends play.
Where did you start playing?
I first learned to play at Eastover Country Club in New Orleans. It was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina. It’s sad whenever I think about it, I have so many memories playing there. I’ve always hoped there’s some people in the golf course community and some residents there interested in trying to get the course back up and running. I’ve always dreamed about getting another round in there. I’d probably cry on the first tee.
Who’s in your dream foursome?
Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Tiger Woods. I’d keep my mouth shut and try the best I could to play well and enjoy the entertainment.
What’s your favorite course?
I love Trump National. I played there a couple of years ago at a tournament with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for The Puente Project after-school program. My buddy asked me if I would come out and host the tournament and banquet. I fell in love with the views on that course. I’m looking forward to getting back out there. I’m saving it as a treat.