INTERVIEW | DOMINIQUE BOULET
I could fill in for him and I said yes and it kind of started from there. Back then, there were like half a dozen live events and later in September, they asked me to do the Singapore Open and it kind of snowballed from there.
It’s a bit of a switch from swinging clubs to talking about the game. Did it come naturally?
Photo credit: Asian Tour (portrait); Daniel Wong (HKPGA)
Dominique Boulet may not have achieved his goal of winning on the Asian Tour but the Fanling member is certainly now making a name for himself as a TV pundit, so much so that he is now being called “The Voice of Asian Golf.” Here, Dom talks about his playing days, how he got into broadcasting and why he thinks the Asian Tour will continue to grow.
Boulet, seen here competing at this year's Ageas HKPGA Championship (below), a tournament he helps to organise, says he isn't afraid to criticise players on air in a nice way, of course 38
HK Golfer・JUL 2013
How did this TV commentating job come about for you? I basically gave up playing in 2002 and founded my own company Impact Golf [with current Hong Kong Golf Club champion Tim Orgill] later that year. I had a young family and I wasn’t
I never really prepared for it. I just sat there. Alan Wilkins [fellow commentator] made my life very easy initially, he’s easy to work with and I just looked at the screen and talked about what came into my head. It’s what I do till this day. Thinking back about it, I’ve been commentating my whole life. We commented to ourselves when we watch sports on TV like “why did he do that” etc. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I’m sure everyone who watches sport do the same thing. How would you describe yourself as a golf commentator? A lot of it depends on who you work with. Who you work with brings out different personality traits. When I worked with Alan, it was kind of loose and we fooled around and joked around a little bit. He brought out that side of me. I don’t think I can label myself in one way. I know the players. Although I didn’t play the game at the highest level, I understand the game, understand the thought process; I have empathy for the players and I’m not afraid to criticise in a nice way.
I understand how hard the game is and how hard it is to play for a living. But at the same time, I understand there are ways to make it easier. I’m not afraid to say it’s a bad shot when it really is a bad shot. Sometimes, we praise the players too much and I’m guilty of it too. I try to keep it balanced, they’re not too brilliant and they’re not too bad. You’ve got to be honest about it. Have you rubbed any player the wrong way with something you said on air? No one has come up to say I was wrong. Last year in India, watching Lam Chih Bing play, I said he didn’t look comfortable standing over his putts. Honestly, I don’t think he does. If you ask him, I think he’ll feel the same way. It was a morning record and it was aired in the afternoon and he heard the comment. He was missing putts all day. Someone came up later and told me Lam was a little upset with what I said. I later saw him at the practice green and I said “Hey man, I am sorry if I had upset you but I’m just saying what I see. I see that you don’t look that comfortable.” I think he agreed with me and I apologised. I’m doing my job and he’s doing his job. We have no problems. That’s the beauty of it. None of the guys here have big egos and I’m lucky I can say things and if they are upset, they can come up to me and say I’m wrong. But I still don’t feel like I’m bursting any egos as the guys out here are great. The guys from my generation know that I’m pretty much a straight forward guy.
playing so well. However, I never thought about going into broadcasting as firstly, there weren’t too many live events. How it came about was when Derek Fung [a fellow Hong Kong pro] was doing a few events and one day at the BMW Asian Open in 2005, he called me and said he was busy and couldn’t do it. He asked if HKGOLFER.COM
HK Golfer・JUL 2013
people like you, the more they take the mickey. If my friends are saying nice things about me, I know I’m on the right path. The Asian Tour is celebrating its 10th season this year. How much have you seen the game grow on the Asian Tour from the time you played up till now? Sometimes it hits me how big a difference the game has become over here. If you look at the scale of the tournaments now, it’s so much different. When I was playing, we probably had two live TV events. Now we have like 15 or 16 live events a year. The scale of the events, the marquees, the hospitality, the prize money, it’s all grown. We never had a marquees those days. The prize money for most events have escalated to US$750,000, US$1 million or US$2 million for our full field events, which is great. Has anything changed with the players? The professionalism of the players is very different. We were kind of old school then, never went to the gym and didn’t work out. Now you see everyone going to the gym which is reflective on all the tours. We used to hang out at the bars to chit chat. It was different. The good thing about the Asian Tour is that it’s still got the friendly camaraderie even though it’s become more professional. These guys are making more money and the level of professionalism has risen compared to 15 or 18 years ago.
“I don’t feel like I’m bursting any egos as the players out here on the Asian Tour are great. People from my generation know that I’m pretty much a straight forward guy.” Do you need to hold back on what you can say on air? Is it difficult to do?
Photo credit: Daniel Wong (action); Asian Tour (commentary)
Sometimes you have to temper what you say. Mike Crowe [Asian Tour Media Executive Producer] and I have a laugh. We have ‘talk back’ to each other. We have what we call the alternative commentary which is what we like to say but sometimes we can’t say it on air because of political correctness and stuff like that. We have a laugh. I’m sure every commentator would like to say how he feels but we’d be out of a job by the end of the broadcast if that happened! What’s been some of the nicest things you’ve been complimented for your TV work? I was told a while ago that no matter how good a job you do, you’re not going to please everybody. There are brilliant commentators out there that I don’t like ... I don’t like the way they deliver their lines or I don’t like their voice. I don’t mind criticism as it’s human nature. I have gotten a lot of compliments and my biggest critics are my friends from back home who never ever say anything nice about me unless they genuinely had meant it. The culture I grew up in was that the more
HK Golfer・JUL 2013
Who amongst the new generation of Asian Tour players do you think will become better than the likes of Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant? I think Kiradech Aphibarnrat is unbelievable. I think he really is natural. I think he can go really far in his career. He can be top-20 in the world, top-10 in fact. He’s got a massive talent. I think he can go all the way. Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, our 2010 Order of Merit champion, is also another guy who can become a world’s top-10 player. He can go all the way. Speaking of Kiradech, he is a big boy. Have you talked about it on air? I was actually going to bring it up [during the Maybank Malaysian Open which Kiradech won]. For the longevity of his career, I think it would be beneficial. But I also get the impression that if he lost a big amount of weight, he might lose his game too. We’ve seen that in the past with the big players. It’s a dangerous one. It’s not ideal to carry the extra weight that he’s carrying. Golf HKGOLFER.COM
“I’m a mental midget ... I once finished with six clubs in my bag. I just threw them all into the lake. At the time, I couldn’t control it. I felt bad for my playing partners. This game drives people to do silly things.” is mentally more tiring but it’s also physically draining when you’re playing a tough season; you’ve got the pro-am, practice rounds, week in week out. But he’s a point now that he’s got the luxury to plan a better schedule. How about yourself ... what held you back from winning on the old Asian circuit during your playing career? I was a mental midget! I was terrible. I watch how the top players behave now and how I behaved, it was terrible. They are patient. I was very competitive. There is no way these guys are less competitive than I was but how they manage their emotions on the course where I absolutely had no control. It was pathetic. What have been some of your worse moments? A hundred of things! Throwing clubs ... I once finished with six clubs in my bag. I just threw them all into the lake. At the time, I couldn’t control it. I felt bad for my playing partners. HKGOLFER.COM
I must have been a distraction to them. You still see a few guys out here but they’ve been held back. It takes a huge amount of discipline. I’m a social golfer now but I still can’t control myself and I still throw clubs. It’s pathetic. I’m 47 years old! This game drives people to do silly things. Off the golf course, my personality is totally different. It’s bizarre. Has extended TV coverage helped players to behave better? You never saw the players through an extended period of time as telecasts those days were confined to the last six to seven holes. Even the Masters covered only the back nine until quite recently. So you never really saw how the players behaved throughout their rounds. Now, you don’t miss a Tiger Woods shot, you get to see Rory McIlroy throughout his round. And you get to see their reaction after a bad shot, they just put their club back into the bag and continue walking. Because of the exposure, the guys learn a lot quicker. The young guys now
Boulet, pictured with Asian Tour co-commentator Richard Kaufman (above) was as competitive as they come during his playing days but says was let down by not being able to control his emotions; the long-time Hong Kong Golf Club member believes the players on the Asian Tour have become much more professional - "We never went to the gym and used to hang out at the bars," he says HK Golfer・JUL 2013
have far more knowledge, swing, mental training, lifestyle, coaches, fitness. We learned the game after turning pro. We learned how to play after we turned pro. Now, these kids are ready after they turn pro because they have all these support. It’s a different game, a different era. I’m not necessarily saying it’s better. What are your thoughts about the pace of play these days? The pace of the game is a worry. Golf shouldn’t take four and a half hours. It should take no more than four and a quarter but of course if the course is tough and the greens are tricky, it’ll take a little longer. It’s a hard watch when you see the guys take a minute or a minute and a half to hit a shot. When you watch the top players, they are reacting. They react to what they see. It’s an instinctive game, it’s a feel game. Of course you have the mechanics of the game to think about but it’s what you see and how you react to it. Many are now labeling you "The Voice of Asian Golf". Is it complimentary? It’s a flattering term but basically, I’m the only guy right now. Hopefully when we develop and have 30 to 35 tournaments in a few years’ time, we’ll add more to the team. I can’t do it all. I’m looking forward to the day when we have a bigger team in our commentary. You’ve worked with many top golf commentators now. How much have you enjoyed working with different commentators?
Pictured alongside friend and Asian Tour Executive Chairman Kyi Hla Han during the pair's playing days "There's some sense that there is some unfinished business, that I should be better than what I am but it's getting less and less" 42
HK GOLFER・JUL 2013
Everyone I’ve worked with has been fantastic. I’ve worked with Renton Laidlaw, Warren Humphreys, Julian Tutt, Richard Kaufman, Alan Wilkins, Dougie Donnelly and Peter Donegan, I’ve been very lucky. These are the guys I’ve looked up to. For me, I was star struck when I started working with them as I had watched them when I was playing and growing up. To actually work alongside them, it’s a big deal for me. But now, they’ve become friends. Everybody brings out a different side of me. They’ve all been easy to work with. There’s not been a guy that I’ve sat next to where he’s made me feel uncomfortable like he’s the man or he’s
the star of the broadcast. They’ve all treated me like a complete equal although at the beginning, I was a novice. I still feel I’m a rookie although I’ve done it for eight years now. Any good advice from them? They give me little tips. The one thing is be yourself, they’ve all said it in their own way. Say what comes to your mind and be yourself. Don’t be someone different as the audience will figure that out. You get to watch and talk about all these great golfers on the Asian Tour and from around the world. Do you get the itch to try to get back out there to play competitively? It’s never gone. I still love the game. Deep down, it’s still my passion. There’s some sense that there is some unfinished business, that I should be better than what I am but it’s getting less and less. You never know. I still play the occasional local stuff to keep the juices flowing. I think it’s important that I still play the game, understand the technology. It’s good to play with better players to see what the difference is. HKGOLFER.COM