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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK

Allis defends Open commentary

"He's gone ga-ga": Van de Velde contemplates his ball's watery grave

BBC golf commentator Peter Allis has defended his controversial broadcast of the closing stages of The Open Championship.

Peter Allis commentates on Jean Van de Velde's 18th for BBC2
The veteran TV commentator was accused of taking a "curmudgeonly" approach as he described runaway leader Jean Van de Velde's remarkable collapse on the 18th hole.

When the Frenchman appeared to be about to play the ball from the bottom of a stream, Allis branded the Frenchman's behaviour "totally ridiculous".

"What on earth are you doing?" he pleaded to Van de Velde. "He's gone ga-ga. To attempt to hit the ball out of there is pure madness."

Victor Meldrew

Allis' comments sparked a huge debate in the press.

[ image:
"Pure madness": The Frenchman dries his soggy feet
Daily Mail correspondent Neil Wilson accused the former Ryder Cup player of taking a "Victor Meldrew" attitude to an event that most viewers found entertaining.

But the newspaper's readers voted seven to one in favour of Allis continuing to front the BBC's coverage - a reaction that stunned the man himself.

"The Daily Mail said I'd failed to see the funny side of it," Allis told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Well I didn't see anything funny in Van de Velde's demise there.

"The paper had an amazing response. People were enormously supportive.

"There was a huge balance in my favour, which is very humbling, because I didn't know these people and they wrote in from as far afield as Australia, Canada and the United States. It was quite staggering really."


As to whether his commentary resembled the BBC's grumpy sitcom character Victor Meldrew, Allis was unrepentant.

Peter Allis: "I was humbled by the response from the public"
"I did what I did at the time," he explained. "I thought it was one of the saddest spectacles I'd ever seen in sport, let alone golf.

"Here was a chap who is a very nice man, a charming, courteous fellow, with the world's greatest golfing prize in the palm of his hand - and he made a terrible botch of it.

"If I sounded curmudgeonly it certainly wasn't my intention."

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