At the Evian, Name Calling Takes Practice

Two friends share the duties of announcing the golfers as play begins. Sometimes they have to ask, ‘How would you pronounce this?’

Every summer, during most of the four rounds of the Amundi Evian Championship in France, a major tournament in women’s professional golf since 2013, Evelyn Bayle and Agnès Meneghel do not hit a single shot, nor offer a single word of advice to the players.

Even so, the women, friends for more than 30 years, see themselves as part of the game. They are what are called starters, the announcers who read out the names of the golfers at the first hole of each round.

Meneghel, 55, and Bayle, 65, will be back at Evian this week, after the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. Bayle, who is from Galway, Ireland, but has lived in France for 40 years, has been working the tournament since 2014, having been recommended by one of the event’s previous starters because of her knowledge of English and French. She then helped her friend get the position in 2017.

“Their extensive knowledge of the players who tee off one after the other from the first tee enables them to present the champions to the spectators by announcing their name, nationality and main achievements,” Steve Brangeon, director of the tournament, said. “Evelyn Bayle and Agnès Meneghel carry out this role magnificently and always with such professionalism.”

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And they take their jobs very seriously. Once she knows which golfers will be in the field, Bayle practices some of the more difficult names the day before and writes them phonetically. Sometimes she seeks help from friends with the same nationality.

“How would you pronounce this?” she asks.

When she is still not certain, she asks the player’s caddie for the correct pronunciation.

Bayle said she believed she had never gotten a name wrong.

But Meneghel has. She cannot remember the player, just how she felt when she fumbled the name.

“I went up to the caddie,” Meneghel said, “and said, ‘Is it really the way I should pronounce this name,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s it.’ And when it came out, it came out completely wrong.”

Before introducing the first group of players, the starters welcome the fans in French. The introductions are done in English.

“Some of the French people in the public, they say, ‘Why are you announcing in English? We’re in France,’” Bayle said. She tells them, “It’s an international competition.”

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For most of the rounds, the starters make sure to show the same amount of emotion for each participant.

“Of course there are big names, but you have to give credit to everyone,” said Meneghel, who said she started learning English when she was 11 and lived in England for a year when she was 19.

The tradition of the announcements, which take place at tournaments worldwide, is an important one for players, who said that hearing their names being called meant a lot.

“Being announced on the first tee is in my top five favorite things of being a professional golfer,” said Natalie Gulbis, 38, of the United States, who won the Evian tournament in 2007. “In Evian, it’s really special. I think, being the fact it’s not just your name, but that you’re representing your country” when you play internationally.

Angela Stanford, the 2018 Evian winner, agrees. “I come from a small town in Texas,” said Stanford, 43, who has seven L.P.G.A. victories. “When we leave the country, and they announce me from the United States, I take a great deal of pride in that. I love it.”

For the first day of the four-day tournament, the players tee off on the No. 1 or No. 10 holes. Bayne is responsible for the announcements on one tee, Meneghel the other. They change places on the second day. Over the weekend, they split the duties, with all of the golfers beginning their round on No. 1.

The announcement for each group usually goes like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is group number 23, tee time 11:32. On the tee from the United States of America, Natalie Gulbis.” For the second player the starter says “Next on the tee.” For the third player, “And on the tee.” If the player is the defending champion, the starter will add that detail to the announcement.

After the players from each group hit their opening drives, they leave the tee box and head down the fairway. Bayle and Meneghel then prepare the scorecards for the next group to tee off.

There are 12 minutes between each tee time. The starters notify the players when five minutes remain before their scheduled time and again when there is one minute to go. Other than that, the starters don’t say much to the players.

“They do recognize us and smile and always say, ‘Thank you,’” Bayle said. “Most of them are really nice. Some of them are more inclined to talk to me, and I will talk to them.”

For both starters, who bring their husbands, the week in Evian is a holiday. They aren’t paid for their work, but receive free accommodations, lunch on site and an allowance for evening meals. After every player has teed off, they stay and watch the rest of the round.

The women met while working at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, in Lyon in the 1980s. Meneghel still works there, but Bayle is retired.

Both are familiar with the game and play their share of golf.

“I have been a beginner for the last 30 years,” Meneghel said.

Nonetheless, for one week a year, they get an opportunity to watch the best women golfers in the world.

And be part of the game.

Source: Golf -


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