Almost 10 years ago, Cara Banks turned on the Golf Channel in her hotel room at the PGA Championship and watched Kelly Tilghman host “Live From” on location at Oak Hill Country Club. Banks, who worked there for Sky Sport’s Golfing World, immediately knew that was what she wanted to do.
“It’s kind of pinching me,” Banks said of how that dream came true.
Banks, 37, travels to Scotland on Saturday night to prepare for the 150th British Open Championship at St. Andrews, three nights after her husband Ollie left. She will stay on all week working as the host of the Golf Channel’s ‘Live From’ shows as well as streaming coverage of The Old Course.
Ollie, managing director of CM Management, will travel from the Scottish Open to the British then return home for a few days before flying out to meet client Kipp Popert at the US Adaptive Open at Pinehurst.
They will then meet at their home in Connecticut, pack up their two young children and return to the UK to visit family. What sounds a bit chaotic actually makes a lot of sense given that kids tend to do better at home in their routines with a nanny, while mom and dad work the long hours of a major championship.
“Everyone warns you that having two is like 100,” said Banks, who gave birth to daughter Tiggy in November. Son Jesse turned 3 in June.
“One is one and two is 100. … I was joking with my friend, why didn’t you shout that from the rooftops? It’s mental!”
Obviously, neither bank, both British, would change anything. There are no typical days in the Banks household, with the two traveling and Cara heading to the studio at varying times when not working from the kitchen table. They are currently in the midst of a remodel of their Fairfield home, turning the garage into a second office.
“What I tell everyone,” Banks said in the middle of a 12-day trip to Augusta, Georgia, last April, “is that I think working out makes me a better mom.”
Cara Banks’ (formerly Robinson) career inspiration began with Davina McCall, a British presenter who rose to prominence as the host of the TV series “Big Brother.”
“I loved the feeling she had talking to you,” said Banks, who studied politics at Newcastle University but took her first job as a runner on a chat show Saturday night making cups of tea.
Banks realized early on, however, that sport suited her more than entertainment and the 6ft 1in netballer, having been raised in a family of golfers, took a job as production secretary for the productions of the European tour at IMG. Then, when the chief executive’s personal assistant Rupert Hampel went on maternity leave, Banks reluctantly took the job on the advice of others.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” admitted Banks, who held the position for two years.
During the week, she took minutes for the European Tour board meeting, but at weekends, she traveled to places like Scotland and Wales to record videos for the Europeans. Senior and Challenge Tours. While her friends were at the pub, she was looking for a seat next to the producer on the flight home to watch him prepare for the show.
When Sky Sports’ Golfing World first launched, Banks took on the role of ‘preditor’, which is industry slang for a job that combines the duties of producer and editor. She traveled the world with her camera in tow as a kind of one-woman band, setting up the interviews and equipment to set up her own voice-over features.
Eventually, it was decided the show needed a presenter, and Banks moved on to work in front of the camera, now traveling with a pre-editor.
“I’ve always found it helpful to know how it works behind the camera,” Banks said, “I understand how to run a flagship show and write a script. I know what the guys in the control room are looking for.
Amid this on-the-job training, tragedy struck the Robinson family in 2009 when Cara’s brother, Myles, never returned from a night out at a Swiss ski resort. The whole family was there on vacation and he was found dead at the foot of a cliff. No one could answer the how or the why.
Myles was 23 and on the cusp of a career in finance in London. He and Cara were very close.
“We were so lucky,” Banks said, “all four of us were so lucky to live in that bubble, and then real life hit. I just remember being very pragmatic about it, probably to support my parents, who were going through hell.
Myles loved golf and his favorite player was Luke Donald. All Cara wanted to do while working at Doral for Golfing World was call her younger brother to tell him about it. As fate would have it, she met Ollie while working at IMG, and it turns out he was managing Donald during the Englishman’s stint as world No.1.
The relationship with Myles continues now as her son Jesse’s best friend in preschool is a boy named Myles, even spelled the same.
“I think it’s enough to think about things in a positive way,” said the strong and affable Banks.
After several years working as a presenter for Golfing World, Banks was approached by Golf Channel, coming on board in 2015 as co-host of “Morning Drive.”
She is now the studio host of “Golf Central” and hosts “Live From” shows at major events, also working occasionally as a reporter.
“She’s the ringleader,” Golf Channel analyst Paige Mackenzie said. “She sets the tone for everything that happens on the desk.”
Coordinating producer Matt Hegarty notes that Banks stood out immediately because she worked throughout commercial breaks, regardless of how long the show aired. It was a first.
Banks loves a good nugget and often weaves in interesting tidbits to make the storytelling as full and rich as possible. Her passion for the game and her genuine curiosity shine through in everything she does, whether as a host or a journalist.
She enjoys treating the camera like another person in the room, remembering what it was like watching McCall grow up.
“I always try to be the same person on camera as off,” Banks said, “because the audience isn’t stupid. They will see through you.
Ollie marvels at his wife’s ability to compartmentalize as an active mother who still has time for the gym and her friends. He also appreciates her “insane level of skill in being able to remember facts”. Although the same cannot be said for the song lyrics.
“I think she likes to understand not just what’s going on on the surface,” Ollie said, “but the deeper cause of why things happen.”
Before Banks took on play-by-play duties for the first time last year at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Mike Tirico reached out to offer not just his congratulations, but the use of his models so she could see how he prepares.
“He has an Excel document and he has everything on one page,” Banks said. “Everything is divided like a mathematical equation. It’s fascinating.”
Banks hopes to follow in the footsteps of a Jim Nantz or a Tirico as a play-by-play host and announcer for a variety of different sports at the highest level. She recently covered the Premier League for NBC Sports and reported on various events at the Summer and Winter Olympics.
“For me, I feel like I’m a bit off because I didn’t grow up here,” she said. “I haven’t watched the NFL all my life or had a varsity team.”
Banks’ ambitious personality, coupled with his love of learning, however, makes this next dream seem achievable. She wants to do everything she can to push back the barrier for women in sport.
“She really has become as complete as anyone,” Hegarty said.
Mackenzie started working with Banks on “Morning Drive” and says their conversations often revolve around finding a good nanny.
While the uninterrupted juggling act can sometimes get crazy, Mackenzie has always admired Banks’ ability to navigate what can be the chaos of live television to deliver an exceptionally smooth product.
“As a viewer, you would never know what kind of storm or hurricane might be in his ear,” Mackenzie said. “She always had such a command.”
Ollie was on his way to the airport when he picked up the call to talk about his wife. The couple started dating in December 2011 and got married in 2017. He enjoys sharing his story with others who want a career in sports.
“Listen, if you really want something strong enough, don’t turn down any opportunity,” he said. “Show your personality, show your skills. You never know what might become of it.
Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player and longtime Golf Channel analyst, has worked with Tilghman for years and describes her as formidable and capable, with a great sense of levity. Tilghman, who became the PGA Tour’s first female play-by-play host, understood that television is meant to be entertainment.
Banks, he says, is much the same.
“She has a commanding presence and I would say comfortable on-air, similar to Kelly,” Chamblee said. “But above all, there’s a level of skill that comes through, like she can handle anything.”
One of the things Chamblee said he liked most about late night host David Letterman was that he would take a funny commentary at the top of the show and find a way to thread it throughout. , giving the show a beginning, middle, and end. Banks do the same.
She’s also keen to challenge analysts to make a point, not so much to hold them accountable, Chamblee said, but to let them shine. While Tilghman, who left Golf Channel after more than two decades to focus on his family, was very organized, he continued, host Rich Lerner is more in the moment. Banks is a mix of both.
“As an analyst,” Chamblee said, “you feel very comfortable sitting next to her because you know she has it. She can get us in, she can get us out, she can keep the ball in the air.
While making it look rather effortless.