As soon as Golf Channel viewers hear the voice of Cara Banks, an immediate connection is made through the screen. That ever-growing trust between golf lovers and Banks has made her one of the most admired broadcasting figures in the game as she hosts programs like “Live From,” a conversational hub for major championships and golf’s biggest events.
How she reached that point is equal parts determination and serendipity.
Banks’ passion toward a career in broadcasting began as a child in England when she watched Davina McCall host the British reality show “Big Brother.”
“She was my inspiration,” Banks, 37, told Global Golf Post. “I remember sitting at home watching in my parents’ kitchen and feeling like she was talking to me. Like straight down the lens, direct eye contact, talking to me. I knew then that I wanted to work in TV.”
Like McCall, Banks started out in entertainment on Saturday night shows. She quickly realized that entertainment was not what she wanted to pursue. Sport broadcasting, which geared toward numbers, history and tradition, was more suited for her.
Before long, Banks — who went by Cara Robinson before marrying husband Oliver Banks in 2017 — had immersed herself in the golf industry. Although Banks did not play golf, her family was deeply involved in the game. Her father, Michael, owned a golf vacation firm, and her mother, Sarah, the former president of the British Alpine Racing Ski Clubs, quickly picked up the game. Banks often watched her family play. Their home club, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club — a few miles from Royal St. George’s on the Southeast coast of England where the Open Championship was played in 2021 — hosts an annual tournament called “Deal Week,” which is a 10-day stretch of open competition. The event ignited Banks’ love for golf and, more specifically, her distinguished knowledge of the game.
“For my family, those 10 days were locked in the calendar,” Banks said. “I would spend my summer days walking around the golf course. Many of the events were match play, which is obviously great to watch. It’s a great viewing golf course as well because it’s very traditional links. You could drive nine out and nine back along the ancient highway and park up at the halfway house. So it was a really social way of getting into golf.”
“It was a bit of a pinch-me moment when I started hosting ‘Live From’ because I remember watching Kelly Tilghman hosting ‘Live From’ and thinking, ‘That is what I want to do.’ It’s so cool to have achieved that.” – Cara Banks
One afternoon, Sarah came home from a round of golf and mentioned to her daughter that she had played with Katie Naylor. Naylor is the sister of Rupert Hampel, the former director of European Tour Productions and current executive vice president of IMG media. Her mother’s round with Naylor was ideal timing for Banks, who was making the transition from entertainment to sports TV at the time.
“I got his (Hampel) email and the rest was history,” Banks said. “I went to meet him for an interview and got my first job at IMG. That round of golf is a perfect example of how the game can lead you anywhere. It arguably changed my career path.”
Landing a production secretary position with IMG was fortunate, but Banks has made her own luck in an emerging career. Banks stands tall — and not just because she is 6-foot-1. Her confident, affable and relaxed demeanor has made her a favorite among golf fans.
Banks’ career in the golf industry began with hosting “Golfing World” weekly on Sky Sports in the U.K., in addition to conducting player interviews and features for the network. She also contributed to “@TheOpenLIVE,” a live digital telecast of the Open Championship, and various productions outside of golf, including at Wimbledon, the 2012 London Olympics, the World’s Strongest Man competition and the Taste Festivals.
In 2015, Banks moved from England to Florida when she was hired by Golf Channel to host “Morning Drive,” a morning golf talk show that, as Banks put it, was like a family who made 3 a.m. wakeup calls doable.
“I’ll never forget walking into the newsroom at Golf Channel in 2015 and Lauren Thompson standing up and giving me a great big hug,” Banks said. “It’s cliche, but we really are like a family. We spend so much time together, we’re on the road together, and I think everyone respects everyone else’s strengths.”
When “Morning Drive” ended in 2020, Banks became the studio host for Golf Central and traveled on-site to host “Live From.” She now lives in Connecticut, where the show is broadcast.
“It was a bit of a pinch-me moment when I started hosting ‘Live From’ because I remember watching Kelly Tilghman hosting ‘Live From’ and thinking, ‘That is what I want to do,’ ” Banks said. “It’s so cool to have achieved that.”
“If you’ve done your work and if you know your material, it shouldn’t make a difference which gender you are. You just need to be the right person for the job.” – Cara Banks
Tilghman was one of the longest tenured Golf Channel on-air personalities and the first full-time female play-by-play commentator in the history of the PGA Tour. Her trailblazing success is a testament to the fact that the best voices are qualified to host the best tournaments — and gender shouldn’t matter. Banks agrees.
“I’m one of several women,” Banks said. “I think about Tilghman, Judy Rankin, Dottie Pepper, Amanda Balionis, Kira K. Dixon, Anna Jackson. It’s really important that we have women represented through all parts of the game, not just the LPGA. I’ve never felt like (being a woman) should be a disadvantage. I’ve just made sure that I know my material and that I can back myself. Really, the trick is to be the best person that they can have and then gender shouldn’t really come into it.”
When Banks was asked what is next for her, she rattled off a list of golf broadcasting figures. Those are the names of on-air talent that have shaped golf — and she would like to reach that point.
“(I would like to be) your Mike Tirico, your Dan Hicks, Terry Gannon,” Banks said. “They are all so supportive of me. Mike at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was showing me how he prepares for events. So his role for me is kind of the next pathway. I just think don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Keep knocking on doors. It’s good to see female faces on TV and know it’s achievable, but it shouldn’t feel like an upward climb.”
That pathway is open for Banks and all other women, as far as she is concerned.
“If you’ve done your work and if you know your material, it shouldn’t make a difference which gender you are. You just need to be the right person for the job.”
Top: Cara Banks interviewed Maya Palanza Gaudin, the winner of the girls 12-13 age group, at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club in April. Photo: David Cannon, Getty Images
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