Sarah Stirk can be found front and centre of Sky Sports’ golf coverage, hosting Majors and quizzing the likes of Tiger Woods and Lydia Ko. But here she is on the end of a grilling – from our own Mark Townsend.
What is the key to a good first question?
Initially it takes time to build trust. In my previous job I was speaking with Tiger Woods in one of my first interviews. We had a dinner with Darren Clarke and he knows Tiger pretty well so he said not to make the first question too negative and to keep it quite open-ended and that was great advice.
You should never be too negative at the start and it should never be a statement on how you think they have played, it should be up to them to tell you.
What do your pre-tournament preparations involve?
We do so many weeks so your knowledge base grows quite quickly but I am a big believer in good prep and we have so many weather delays that there is a lot of time to fill. If you don’t know your stuff you will get found out pretty quickly.
How does the process work of getting hold of the players?
Even Tiger will visit us and he is a lot better now than he ever has been. We have a hit-list of who we want to speak to and we work with the media team on site.
How comfortable are you asking awkward questions?
I think very, my background is as a journalist so I’ve done all the training and I think that’s my job. I feel like I’ve got a good relationship with the players and there is respect both ways, I don’t get too pally with the players which I think is wrong as you are going to have to ask certain tough questions at certain points.
How does working at the Masters differ from other weeks?
I‘ve been twice and was there this year. It’s my No 1 place to visit and work. The first time you almost wish you had gone as a fan first as there is so much to check with the committee. Normally you have editorial control but everything has to be done properly and it is a pressure week.
This year was more comfortable having done it once. You do feel under pressure – I’m asking questions so there’s less pressure on me as opposed to Monty or Paul McGinley who are offering opinions. I am not there to give an opinion, nobody cares about my opinion, my job is to get the best out of them.
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
I think maybe something on the Players Championship as I’ve covered that so many times. Or the PGA Tour the last five years.
Have you played Sawgrass?
No I haven’t. Its hard with the timings so I’ve not had the chance to play there.
How disappointing is it to still have male-only clubs?
I think it’s ridiculous that we are still talking about it in this day and age. I think it’s archaic but if a club wants to have a singlesex policy then that’s fine but I don’t think that that club should be hosting the Open Championship and having the profile of one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
You are trying to appeal to young, old, male and female and as diverse a crowd as possible and male or female-only clubs don’t send out the right message or help golf ’s image.
Have you found it difficult as a woman at any of these clubs?
I haven’t really, no. I find Martin Slumbers of the R&A a very progressive and forward-thinking individual, I hope he will really shake things up.
Look at how golf is changing so much, look at the social media these days. I don’t think in any walk of life you want to be segregating groups. Golf has to be inclusive. My first experience of going to a golf club was being told off for not wearing the right clothes and that is so frustrating and puts people off.
Which woman golfer do you love watching?
Lexi Thompson definitely has the wow factor. I like the fact that she has two older brothers and tried to compete with them and hit it as hard as she can. She has identified her putting as a weakness and if she improves that she will be so good.
Lydia Ko doesn’t blow you away to watch but to have that composure at that age is mindblowing. It is staggering what she has already achieved and she is still able to perform on a weekly basis despite all the success. And I love Charley. I played with her at my club a few years ago and her mentality is amazing: hit it, find it and hit it again.