Amanda Balionis Renner Talks Favorite Masters Interviews, the Evolution of Golf Twitter, and Netflix’s ‘Full Swing’ (2024)

With each visit to Augusta National, Amanda Balionis Renner still has trouble accepting the fact that she’s on a work trip. Renner—who will be conducting interviews for CBS’s coverage of the Masters for the fifth time this year—never expected to one day be honored with such a position. Back in 2011, the Hofstra University alum took a risk and left her post-graduate job at MSG Network in New York to work for PGATour.com. After pivoting to digital marketing at Callaway Golf, Renner ultimately landed a broadcasting gig with CBS Sports, where golf continues to define her career.

We caught up with the CBS reporter ahead of the 2023 Masters to talk about memorable interviews, jam-packed scheduling, Netflix’s Full Swing, the golf Twitter landscape and more.

SI: What is it like to know that your interviews are going to go down in the Masters history books?

Amanda Balionis Renner:I cry a lot (laughing). I'm overwhelmed. It's not lost on me. First of all, I never expected to be in the golf world. My dream was always to be an NFL sideline reporter. I grew up around golf because my parents and my whole family are obsessed with it. I ended up in the golf world and fell in love with it in such a different way—I get to be so up close and personal to the stories, the drama, and the personalities of these players that aren’t necessarily household names. It never occurred to me when I was working at PGATour.com for five years—and during my marketing job at Callaway that I took because I didn't think that I was going to make it in broadcasting—that I’d be here. There's been a couple of times where I've been asked to speak about it, and I usually end up crying, because it's really special. Again, I know that it's something I will never take even one second of it for granted. It's kind of like, how did this happen?

SI: What did your friends and family think when you were first asked to join the Masters broadcast team?

ABR: I think part of the reason why it felt so special to me is because, like I said, I grew up on golf courses. My grandparents met on a golf course. No one loves to brag about me and what I do for a living more than my mom. My dad passed away about five years ago, but before he passed away, it was the same thing. When I got the phone call—that I was going to be a part of the Masters broadcast for CBS—to share that moment with my mom and dad and see them light up in a way that I had never seen them light up was amazing. It's a very special thing to be able to share that with your family and know that they are beaming with pride and they understand all the hard work and the behind the scenes stuff that has gone on. It's sharing that passion and sharing that experience with them is something that I think about often, and I never take that for granted.

SI: Can you take us through a day in the life for you on a tournament day at Augusta?

ABR: I do the “On the Range'' show, so usually I'm up around 6 a.m. I go to the course and get my hair and makeup done. We have an amazing makeup artist, Shelby. Not having to worry about hair and makeup that week is amazing. While that’s happening, I'm reading transcripts, checking up on whatever I missed overnight. I love to read the local Augusta newspaper. I keep a stack from the whole week to see the progression of storylines. Then we head out on the range and do some player pre-round interviews. I’ll head back to the press center, grab some lunch and just hang out in the green room. That's when some of our other announcers might be taking a break or getting ready to head on air. There's nothing cooler than sitting in a green room with Verne Lundquist, right? He's a walking, talking legend. I'll soak that in for a bit and then get ready for the clubhouse leader interviews.

On Thursday and Friday we do interviews for the late show, which Ian Baker Finch and I do in Butler Cabin, which is awesome. We finish filming around 10 o'clock. And then “We Need to Talk,” our all-women show on CBS Sports Network is next, and that wraps around midnight. But that’s my latest night. By the time Saturday and Sunday roll around, I’m there to focus on the interviews at hand for our network coverage.

SI: Do you have a favorite interview or favorite interview response that stands out to you from your years covering the Masters?

ABR: When Tiger won, that whole week was magic. Saturday night was incredible—I asked Tiger what time he would wake up, because the tee times had to be moved up because of weather. Tiger could say nothing or he could give you a lot. I think when I asked him, “What does it look like for you tomorrow as you get ready for this final round?” He said he was going to wake up at 3 a.m. You're just like, “Oh my gosh.” It puts into perspective what he had to do to even think about competing. And then to go out there and win with his kids there, and the flashback to him hugging his father. We could have been witnessing the last time that Tiger Woods wins at Augusta National. We hope it's not, but you always could be the ones covering that story.

Dustin Johnson was memorable. When he cried, it was unexpected. The moment finally sunk in, and we just happened to have the cameras rolling. The circ*mstances were unique. It was the November Masters, there were no patrons there. Dustin was outside on the green. It was an interview that we have never done before, and likely we'll never do again. There were a couple of moments in between him coming out of Butler Cabin with Jim Nantz, and getting the green jacket put on him. We had a commercial break and Paulina’s standing right next to him, and Austin's right there. You can just tell there was a moment of quiet where everything kind of set in for him. He had just accomplished this childhood dream. To be able to ask him about that and have him show us a side of himself that we had never seen publicly before was really special as well.

Rory McIlroy, the same November Masters, told me he loses like 10 pounds that week. That was an insight that was more than he had to share. But it told us everything that we needed to know about how much Rory cares.

SI: What do you think about the new elements they've been adding into the CBS broadcast?

ABR: So good. So freaking good. Watching Max put in that AirPod was absolutely incredible. You're seeing the different personalities. You're seeing the different ways that players and caddies interact. Tom Kim is very different from Keith Mitchell—there isn't just one way to be a great player on the PGA tour, right? To be able to get a little snapshot while they're in contention on the weekend is really freaking cool. Any time we can give more insight into these guys and make them more relatable and make them more memorable, that's a huge win.

SI: Any other ideas you have to help the broadcast evolve?

ABR: At Torrey Pines we interviewed Sam Ryder’s mom. It didn't work out, he didn't end up winning, but I don't think that really was the point. Here's a mom who has driven and flown with her son all across the country, getting him to junior tournaments, and she is walking right next to him as he is trying to win for the very first time. She was shaking, she was so nervous. She was every mom, right? It doesn't have to be a mom, but let’s talk to someone like a swing coach and hear what their player is working on. There's so many cool things happening outside the ropes that we haven't yet tapped into.

SI: How do you feel about the reception of Full Swing, and what was your whole experience like filming with them?

ABR: If you would have told us a few years ago that there would be an entire documentary like Drive to Survive, and it's all going to be on golf, you say “no way.” But the interest is there. Golf has exploded and there are more casual fans than ever. I've had a lot of women, who weren't even interested in golf, tell me that they watched it and loved it. That's how you know it's working. It has singlehandedly helped reach audiences in a way that we never could have.

SI: How has social media played a role in your job, from PGATour.com until now. How does it impact your day-to-day work?

ABR: Social media has evolved so much from when I was at PGATour.com. It’s crazy to say this out loud: I used Twitter in 2011 as the place for me to make mistakes. I needed to learn how to talk about golf, and Twitter felt like a safe space to me. That was the place where I could make mistakes and people would correct me nicely, so that I didn't embarrass myself or do something stupid by the time I was on camera. I would confuse “chip in” and “hole out,” and I’d maybe say he “chipped out,” and you can’t say that. It was a learning platform for me to talk about golf. Now I'm scared to tweet anything! You know someone is going to take issue with it, whatever it is. But it's also a really great place to get your news and get the direct opinions of the athletes that you're covering.

Instagram is totally different. I think it's a fun platform. You can be creative, you can share things in a more vulnerable way, and people are responsive to it. It's almost like a live journal. Twitter for me is more of a necessary evil. It’s a resource. Players aren't really breaking news through news outlets, they're breaking news through their own accounts. They're clearing the air, they’re setting the record straight. But no, I do not advise anyone to use that as a learning platform anymore.

SI: Do you think you're gonna stick with golf in your broadcasting career, or do you still have aspirations of moving completely over to the football side of things?

ABR: I have the dream right now. I do every golf tournament for CBS, then I do half season of the NFL and it is so perfect, I wouldn't change a thing. Your journey rarely looks the way you think it's gonna look. Especially when you graduate college. I'm so happy that I stayed open to something that I really did not think I wanted. I'm so thankful for the younger me, for jumping into this. I was doing college and high school sports in New York and there was something in my gut that said “Get out of your comfort zone.” It was a huge leap of faith. People were telling me it was career suicide to leave TV to work for a website, PGATour.com. I listened to my gut, and obviously it paid off 10 years later. It took a decade to get to the dream job. I can't ever imagine my life without golf now. It's very much a part of me.

Amanda Balionis Renner Talks Favorite Masters Interviews, the Evolution of Golf Twitter, and Netflix’s ‘Full Swing’ (2024)
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