Ann Liguori is a nationally known sports radio and television personality, talk show host, journalist, author, and television producer in the world of sports media. She was the first woman to host a call-in sports show on WFAN-New York, where she hosted a sports talk show for over 20 years and continues as the station’s golf and tennis correspondent, covering events including The Masters, the U.S. Open, PGA Championships, US Open (tennis) and special competitions such as the Ryder Cup. She has covered six Olympics (both the Summer and Winter Games) in a variety of roles including talk show host, reporter and play-by-play commentator for the network radio rights holders including ABC Radio Sports, CBS Radio Sports and Westwood One Radio Network. We caught up with Ann to talk about her career and what keeps her going in a competitive sports business world.
How did you get your start?
I came directly to the Big Apple out of college (University of South Florida) on a fellowship offered by the International Radio & TV Society (IRTS). My first job after that summer program was with CBS Sports as an assistant in production. After about a year and a half, I left to pursue freelance opportunities in print, radio and television. I was hired as a statistician by HBO for Wimbledon and the U.S Open. I worked with ABC Radio Sports Network as a producer and covered the 1984 Olympics. They needed a reporter to cover tennis which was a demonstration sport back then. I played a lot of tennis, walked on the team my first year at USF and so ABC Radio Network tapped me to cover tennis at the Olympics in Los Angeles. I’ve been a reporter, producer, host and journalist ever since.
You have covered all sports but are known more for golf and tennis. What is it about those two that drives you?
They are my two favorite sports to play! I earned 16 Varsity letters in high school in volleyball, basketball, track and tennis (and somehow found time to play the flute in the marching and symphonic bands lol). As my career progressed, golf and tennis were the two sports that I continued to play. They are sports you can play for a life-time! I love to run, bike, do yoga, etc., but my world has revolved around tennis and golf for a long time so it’s a natural fit to focus on these two great sports, coverage-wise! And traveling all over, you can always find a tennis game and play on a beautiful golf course. Golf actually has become such a big part of my career. I hosted a show in the early days on ‘The Golf Channel’ called ‘Conversations with Ann Liguori’ where I interviewed top names in sports, Hollywood, business and music while playing golf with them. Using golf as a vehicle to get to know people has been very effective. My book, ‘A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game’ is a compilation of many of these interviews.
Has your Italian heritage help guide you personally and professionally?
Absolutely. Italian people are so warm and hospitable. I like to think my entire family is like that. We open our home to people, love to invite friends and family over. I’m not a big cook but my significant other, Scott Vallary, who’s 1/4 Italian, makes some incredible pasta dishes.
Two years ago, I was invited to Calabria to stay in a villa that was actually an auction item at my charity golf tournament. A friend of mine bought the opportunity to stay in a villa in Altomonte, in Calabria. Months after the golf outing, she invited Scott and I to join them. It was our first time to that part of Italy. What transpired was a miraculous discovery of second cousins that I didn’t even know I had on my Dad’s side. It’s a great story and I would love to share it with you some time..we ended up visiting second cousins in Oriolo in Calabria where my Grandfather was born and raised. All of his siblings stayed there and raised their families. He was the only one to come to America. He passed away when I was very young and my father passed away when I was in college so we didn’t know any of this history, We unexpectedly met all these relatives on that trip. Incredible.
Who are some.of the people in media who have influenced you and why?
In sports, I’ve always looked up to Billie Jean King for her vision and courage to dare to be different. I admire athletes like Roger Federer who’s a class act. In media, I admire the smoothness and versatility of Jim Nance and Bob Costas. Of course I like the way Oprah and her team maintained the rights to her shows.
But when I started in sports, no woman was hosting their own sports series. The only way I could do the kind of ‘Sports Innerview’ series on cable that I wanted to do was to acquire sponsors to support the series and put the entire production together from A to Z. It was quite an adventure in the early days — producing, selling, distributing, hosting, etc., but it was the smartest thing I ever did, maintaining the rights to all of those interviews with legends. It became a breakthrough series at the time and had a long 17-year run. Being a pioneer in that regard has been quite fulfilling. And it seems like just yesterday, that I started hosting a call-in sports show on WFAN, the first all-sports radio station ever. That was 28 years ago! Wow. I must have started when I was 12! lol