In less than two years, the On the Tee Florida radio show has grown from a local podcast to airing in prime time on nine radio stations throughout the state.
Fueling its popularity are entertaining discussions that blend golf, sports, music, fitness and current events with a comedic flair. However, you won’t find its cast of characters – including PGA pro John Reger – holed up somewhere in a stuffy studio.
Fans and Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill patrons can interact with the crew every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. Upstairs rooms once reserved for private parties and overflow seating during Tampa Bay Rays home games became Ferg’s 19th Hole Clubhouse in July.
On the Tee’s broadcasting booth overlooks one of two immersive Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour-licensed golf simulators. Longtime sports broadcaster Mike Rickord launched the show and said Mark Ferguson, the restaurant’s owner, realized its growing popularity.
“Ever since Covid, golf has exploded again – even with the younger generation,” Rickord said at a broadcast. “People, when they’re driving listening right now, they’re impressed by [Reger’s] resume. I’m just a hack producer.
“But when you mention PGA, they’re going to go, ‘Oh, this guy played on the Tour, he might have some inside stories.”
In addition to Reger, Rickord enlisted the help of author, musician Tom Gribbin as co-producer. Rounding out the local celebrities are Emmy-winning comedian Kerry McNally, artist and celebrity beverage cart hostess Patti Suzette, PGA Tour veteran and coach Bill Buttner and golf fitness trainer Jeff Ward.
Rickord, founder of the Tampa-St. Pete Sports Connection, said he produced and hosted similar shows “up north” for 20 years. He noted that it always featured “two pros and a hack.”
“People want to hear that,” Rickord added. “And then when you’re saying, ‘Hey, they’re (pros) playing at Royal Liverpool this week,’ these guys may have played there. So, between John (Reger) and Bill (Buttner), that’s an attraction.”
The show doesn’t stop at golf. Rickord said former Major League Baseball and National Football League players phone in when On the Tee discusses those professional sports. More than anything, Rickord and Gribbin want to provide two hours of entertainment.
Rickord noted that listeners hear excerpts from golf-centric comedies like Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack following commercial breaks. He said there are myriad “strictly golf” shows, and “we don’t want to be that.”
“Anybody can drink cold beer and go golfing,” Rickord added. “Or play this (simulators) or go putt-putt golfing. They’re all a great place for a party to break out.”
Radio St. Pete is On the Tee’s primary broadcaster, and Gribbin said station officials offered him a show.
Gribbin then went down to watch a live broadcast – when it was still at the entrance to Ferg’s – and said he thought it was “great.” After some discussions with Rickord, Gribbin decided to help build the show.
“I said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we need personalities and everything,'” Gribbin explained. “I came up with Patti (Suzette), the cart girl, the fitness guy and the golf comedian who does the Bill Murray impersonations and stuff.”
He said Suzette, “just a beautiful girl,” also owned a sports bar and could handle her male castmates and guys drinking on the golf course. Gribbin called her the perfect character.
He noted that McNally is also an excellent golfer who traveled the globe making comedy segments for the Golf Channel. Gribbin said Ferguson and fans embraced the format, and On the Tee took on “a life of its own away from the Sports Connection.”
Gribbin said he and Rickord plan to broadcast live from various country clubs and charity golf events. The Sept. 7 show originated from a pirate ship in Ferg’s courtyard, in tribute to the late Jimmy Buffett.
In addition to Radio St. Pete and mobile applications in the Google Play and Apple Stores, Gribbin noted that On the Tee is available live in 12 cities. “We just want to see it grow,” he said.
“It’ll be great for St. Pete, and it’ll be great for the show,” Gribbin added. “The show translates to anywhere in the world. And with the machines (simulators) we have and all that action, this is something that could really take off.”
He explained that his goal is to recreate the banter between friends on a golf course. Gribbin said the sport’s fun happens in between shots.
He also noted that those conversations typically exclude divisive topics that often dominate discourse. “When you’re on the golf course with your buddy, you’re not arguing about the upcoming primary,” Gribbin said.
“Golf talk is pretty much fun stuff. I’m trying to recreate that on the air.”