Duo takes golf talk to radio big-time

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

CLEVELAND -- Tune in to the NEC Invitational Golf Show on WTAM 1100 Sundays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and you're likely to say, "Hey, that sounds like two guys at a bar talking about golf."

That's just what hosts Russ Jeske and Gary Trivisonno intended when they started the radio show in 1997. Four years before, the show was broadcast out of a little station Jeske and his brother, Ray, owned in Massillon. Today, the show reaches an audience of about 100,000 in a six-county area, and an untold number in 38 states and Canada.

"We're No. 1 on Sunday nights," says Jeske. "Gary and I do a good radio job. It's fun, interesting. It's just two guys shooting the bull about golf. I tell my listeners, this is the only two hours of my life that make sense."

Jeske first met Trivisonno in 1995 at the inaugural tournament of the Tornado Tour, a mini-tour he created himself. Being a former PGA Tour player (1981-82) and seven-time Northern Ohio Player of the Year, Trivisonno couldn't resist the competition heating up at the new mini-tour. The pair hit it off, and, two years later, Jeske invited his new friend to do the show with him in Massillon.

"He asked, 'How long is the show, a half hour?'" Jeske says. "I said, 'No, an hour.' He said, 'What the heck are we going to talk about for an hour?'"

The hour flew, and Jeske realized that he needed to have Trivisonno on the show more regularly. Once the show started becoming more popular, Jeske lined his putter up at a bigger city: Cleveland. Initially, the duo was turned down by WTAM, but they did get picked up by WKNR 1220 in 1999. Some people might be surprised anybody picked them up, but Jeske used logic in his sales pitch to open radio executives' ears.

"I told them, look how many people watch golf. It's more than football. The NEC Invitational gets 350,000 fans, but the Browns only get 80,000."

Still a golf radio show? Some people, even diehard golfers, say they'd rather undergo a root canal than watch golf on television. Put it on the radio and you'd have them begging for the firing squad, right? Jeske says the show's growing audience defies this purported belief. Trivisonno concurs, saying that more people know him now for the show instead of his golf game.

"They don't ask how I'm playing anymore, they ask about the show," Trivisonno says.

If playing the game well has anything to do with talking about it well, it's no wonder Jeske, 38, and Trivisonno, 46, are kings of the golf airwaves.

Jeske played in high school and college at Kent State, and counts a 72 in 50-degree temperatures and 30-mph winds at the Northeast Ohio Amateur in 1985 as one of his best rounds. Trivisonno fired 61 twice in his career, once at the University of Alabama course and again at Tam O'Shanter in the pro-am at the Ohio Open.

There's no question, Jeske says, who would win in a head-to-head match. "Gary, hands down," he says. "He's so much better, and he has so much talent. When he was on the Tour in 1981-82, he was one of the longest drivers in the world."

Topics of discussion have included women at Augusta, the USGA and new equipment, what's happening on all the tours, and, most recently, local boy Ben Curtis winning the British Open.

"The weekend before he won I told people to watch this kid because he was in the top 50 in greens in regulation and top 50 in total driving. If he can get the putter going, you never know," Jeske says. "This might be one of the best stories in the last 50 years."

Of course, Tiger Woods, who Jeske has coined "the rock star" on air, is always a topic of conversation.

"We were at the driving range at a tournament one time, and there were about 2,000 people around," Jeske recalls. "Soon, it went up to 5,000 to 7,000, just before Tiger showed up. I said, 'The rock star's here.'"

While Jeske had 13 years to develop his radio voice and lingo before the show was picked up by WTAM, Trivisonno was dragged straight from the fairways to the airwaves with little training. But he's learned a lot from Jeske.

"I couldn't have a better partner," Trivisonno says. "I've never had a difference with him, and he's a natural on the radio. I couldn't see myself doing the show with anyone else."

Maybe it's in the genes, too. Trivisonno's brother, Mike, is a local celebrity with the No. 1-ranked talk show in Cleveland that airs on WTAM as well.

"Mike has a great gift of gab," Gary says. "Listening to him helps. And he gives me pointers, like telling me to occasionally talk about other hot topics not necessarily related to golf."

But Trivisonno's not ready to give up his day job just yet, as head golf professional at Aurora Country Club. "I'm so happy there," he says. Jeske also has duties off the air as teaching pro at Brentwood Golf Course in Grafton, but he has dreams of national syndication. "If we're No. 1 in Cleveland, why can't we be number one in Chicago?" he wonders.

Jeske also dreams of doing the show on-site at a major tournament such as the U.S. Women's Open or the U.S. Senior Open.

"Dreams can come true," Jeske says. "I used to tell the players of the Tornado Tour, 'Just because you don't know my name, doesn't mean I can't play.'"

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • golf radio show

    John Rodda wrote on: Feb 2, 2012

    Jason, noticed your story on Russ Jeske and Gary Trivisono about how they became the king of golf talk radio. My name is John Rodda aka "The roadman" given to me by our listeners of the Leader Board Golf Radio Show which I created, produced and servced at host from 1994 to 1997 airing ever Thursday evening from 8 to 9pm on WERE 1300 AM the same station that now houses CBS The Fan 92.3 FM. Yes I am the original "Roadman" that other guy took my handle because I moved to Florida to work with the PGA radio tour. The Roadman after nearly 10 years is comming back home and is looking to bring the Leader Board back. Your article talked about how successful Jeske and Tivisona is but actually I had both Jeske and Trivisono on my radio show before they even thought of doing a golf radio show. My co-host Bill Prest a friend of Trivisono brought Trivisono on as his Co-host after I departed and went to Florida. I was the creator and had the rights to the name but allowed Bill to continue on in Cleveland but I still owned the rights. Both Jeske and Trivisono enjoyed the experience truth be told they got the idea from the Leader Board. I am in the process of moving back home and also in the process of talking to 92.3 FM to reproduce the Leader Board on for them. My original co-host and a real help in creating a successful radio show was my friend Gary Jeter professional football player who played high school football in Cleveland. I should be back settled in Cleveland by middle of March and currently searching for talent to join me on air. My ability to promote and market set the standard for golf talk radio. I had some of the best sponsors and advertisers who helped make the show a success. I liked both Russ and Gary and would welcome the opportunity to work with them again. If Russ and Gary have the title of King of Golf Talk Radio I should have the title of the Crown Jewel of Golf Talk radio, I am the original first one who started with the help of Gary Jeter and Mr. Herb Score a friend and mentor. I took the visual game of golf and made it pleasant to the ears, interesting, informative and entertaining for all playing levels. Because of your envolvement and your passion prehaps you would like to explore becoming part of the new and improved Leader Board. If you have questions I have anwers feel free to contact me to get the real untold story. Remember, when it goes right its a slice, when it goes left its a hook, when it goes straight its a miracle. My close of the show every week. 352-208-9566


  • russ jeske

    ken neely wrote on: Sep 3, 2011

    used to play on the tornado tour, would like to talk to russ again its been years since we talked. he can reach me at 814 694-7986. my best finish was 3rd in on the tour. enjoyed the competition, but driving from titusville to play was difficult. many times, we had never seen the course and alway teed of last or next to last in the most difficult conditions, my son is a scratch player as a highschool senior and i need advice and help on getting him into the best college possible, he also has a 4.0 gpa. scored over 1500 on the sat test. would like advice on where to get the best coaching education and support for him. thanks


  • does it really matter what the subject is?

    anonymous wrote on: Apr 1, 2011

    did Russ ever mention that he is a dead beat father and left his daughter? Wonder how she's doing...