Roger Maltbie is returning to television in a limited role next year while Gary Koch is planning “to move onto the next stage of my life after two successful careers.” Both, however, are making their respective swan songs at NBC Sports at this week’s PNC Championship in Orlando.
The two mainstays of the NBC golf team were informed last month that their contracts would not be renewed. But whereas Maltbie, after much deliberation, has accepted an offer to work a handful of events for Golf Channel in 2023, Koch turned down a similar opportunity for NBC’s sister cable network. Both NBC and Golf Channel are owned by Comcast.
“After being in the majors for 26 years, I don’t have much desire to work in the minors,” Koch told Golf Digest, referring to the viewer reach of the network compared to the niche cable channel.
“I’m going to miss calling golf. I’m going to miss the people—my colleagues, the players, caddies and friends,” Koch said by telephone recently from his Florida home after avoiding interviews for a period of time to collect his thoughts and his emotions. “Not getting to say goodbye to people at certain events is very disheartening. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to reminisce, not necessarily on air, but just to make those last rounds knowing they would be my last.”
After a playing career that included six PGA Tour titles, Koch, 71, began his broadcasting career at ESPN in 1990 before moving to NBC full time in 1997. Maltbie, 72, a five-time tour winner, made his debut for NBC at the 1991 Ryder Cup.
Both men expressed the same sentiment at being let go. “It hurts to hear you’re not wanted anymore,” said Maltbie, who actually was not expected to return in 2022 but was asked to stay when Jim “Bones” Mackay decided to leave television after being offered the caddie job for Justin Thomas.
“That’s really the bottom line, what Rog is saying. It hurts,” Koch agreed.
Maltbie told Golf Digest on Sunday that he will call the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior PGA Championship and the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. Still to be determined is whether he decides to add the Fortinet Championship and the Shriners Children’s Open next fall on the PGA Tour.
“I kept going back and forth on it, and then I decided I just like doing it too much to just stop completely,” the California native said.
Koch had no problem dismissing the offer out of hand. He is described by colleagues as the hardest working member of the broadcast crew, thoroughly prepared whatever the event he’s working. “He was an inspiration the way he went about his job,” said NBC colleague Paul Azinger.
Koch was still struggling to come to terms with the decision that led to his and Maltbie’s dismissal.
“I can only think it has to do with money,” he said. “I really don’t know what the justification is. I was told that they wanted to refresh the team and that they were looking at 10-15 years down the road, but then they hired two 60-something guys [Brad Faxon and Kurt Byrum], so it’s kind of confusing.”
Faxon, 61, and Bryum, 63, reportedly are being added to the NBC team as booth announcers along with Smylie Kaufman, 31, who like Byrum is being elevated from Golf Channel to take over Maltbie’s role as an on-course reporter.
When asked for comment on reports about who’s replacing Koch and Maltbie, an NBC Sports spokesperson said: “We’re focused on celebrating Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch at the PNC Championship later this month and will be announcing any additional changes to our lineup early in the new year.”
Koch hosted his annual charity golf event, the Gary Koch Invitational Pro-Am, last week at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, which raises money for the First Tee of Tampa. He looks forward to continuing on with that and spending more time with his family, including his three grandsons.
He has no idea what to expect this weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Grande Lakes Resort. He has no idea how he is going to feel when NBC signs off from the event on Sunday. He simply intends to prepare like he always has to call the shots in the 20-team event headlined by Tiger Woods and his son Charlie.
“I guess they are going to celebrate our careers. What that entails I don’t know,” said Koch, who had his own idea of how he would like to go out. Koch replaced Dave Marr in the 17th hole tower at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 1998. Three years later Woods rolled in his monster triple-breaking birdie putt from the back fringe of the island green that afforded Koch the opportunity for his signature “better than most” call.
“It would be fun,” he said, “if I got to call one more big Tiger moment.”