Former pro golfers David Feherty and Gary McCord have made a name for themselves as TV analysts thanks to their offbeat senses of humor. ESPN.com's Michael Collins isn't yet in their class, but he is working his way up the media leader board.
Collins can be seen on ESPN.com's golf page doing video segments and interviews with many of the pros from the PGA Tour. Next Friday, as the Ryder Cup gets under way at Medinah in Illinois, Collins will host a live chat for most of the day on the website.
The 41-year-old Collins has a unique vantage point: He worked as a professional caddie for 10 years and as a standup comedian for 20 — with the jobs occasionally overlapping.
"The hardest comedy gig I ever did was in San Antonio," Collins said by phone last week. "I was caddying in the daytime for Steve Hart, then doing comedy at night. I was doing two shows a night, three shows on Saturday.
"On Friday we played Friday afternoon, then I had shows to do. Steve snuck me into the players' locker room so I could take a shower. Then he drove me to the comedy club and dropped me at the show. Because he made the cut [in the tournament] he couldn't stay at the show, he had to get some sleep.
"It was so hot at La Cantera that week. Three caddies ended up in the hospital that week [due to the heat], but not me. I made it."
Collins has caddied for Robert Gamez, Rich Beem, Brenden Pappas and Chris Couch, among others. His last full-time gig was working for Scott Piercy, who is playing in the Tour Championship this weekend.
"Couch was basically the guy who said, ‘Whenever you're not doing standup, I want you on my bag,' " Collins said.
A high point of Collins' caddie career took place in 2003. He was on the bag when Couch won the Nationwide Tour championship in Prattville, Ala.
"And my victory celebration that night consisted of me babysitting for Chris and Bo Van Pelt while the two couples went to the ceremony" to receive their PGA Tour cards, Collins recalled.
Collins was caddying for Pappas a few years ago when the PGA Tour's broadcast division was looking for talent for a Sunday radio show.
"You should talk to my caddie," Pappas told the talent scouts. Collins landed a job on the tour's radio network, which led to segments on the USA Network, a "Caddie Corner" column for GolfChannel.com, and a regular spot on satellite radio.
"I was back and forth between caddying and broadcasting," he said. "I kept going back to caddying because I wanted to win. I'm an extremely competitive person. I got a win on the Nationwide Tour, but never a win on the PGA Tour. That's something that still eats away at me something terrible.
ESPN found Collins through his radio work. He is officially a golf writer for the website, but his video segments seem likely to land him some TV work sometime soon.
Don't get the impression that Collins is a clown, however.
"I've always wanted to be funny and entertaining. I thought a lot of that was missing in golf — but I never wanted to do anything disrespectful to the game. I try to walk that line, entertaining people, but I want them to say, ‘He knows his stuff, too.'"
Collins said the players on tour appreciate his approach.
"Most of the players know I‘m a professional comedian. They've also heard me do interviews. They know it's not going to be Mike Wallace on ‘60 Minutes,' talking to them. It'll be something fun, but also informative."
In 2007, Collins was covering the Deutsche Bank Championship. Phil Mickelson won the title, finishing two strokes ahead of Tiger Woods in a head-to-head battle.
"I had to interview Tiger later that day and we were having fun," Collins recalled. "One of the sportswriters there told me, ‘I've never seen Tiger smile and laugh after losing.'
"It was pretty cool. I've been able to build relationships with Tiger and some of the other players."
Woods and Mickelson, of course, are both on the U.S. team that will be trying to capture the Ryder Cup at Medinah. This will be the second Ryder Cup for Collins. He was at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., in 2008 when Team USA defeated the Europeans.
"I've never felt anything like the electricity I felt there," he said. "When I got to the first tee for the first matches, all the hair on my neck was standing up. If you've never been to a Ryder Cup, that's got to be on the bucket list. Lie, cheat or steal, but find a way to get a ticket to a Ryder Cup."
ESPN will carry Friday's first day of action from Medinah from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. NBC takes over on Saturday (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Sunday (noon to 6 p.m.).?