Ann Liguori broke ground when she became the first female to host a call-in sports talk show on WFAN in New York and in addition to her radio work, Ann hosted, produced and owns the long-running 'Sports Innerview' weekly cable series now available to watch on Hulu.com and Amazon.com. She has interviewed some of the biggest names in sports and Hollywood. Her weekly series on The Golf Channel in TGC's early years led to her writing the hugely popular book, 'A Passion for Golf, Celebrity Musings About the Game,' a collection of some of the fascinating interviews she's conducted with these sports-loving A-list stars.
But there's more to this sports-loving host, interviewer and business woman than her broadcasting and journalism career. She's also raised more than $1.5 million for charity from her work with her Ann Liguori Foundation which raises money and awareness for cancer prevention, care and research and she hosts an annual Ann Liguori Foundation Charity Golf Classic every year at a prestigious course on the East End of Long Island. This past May, Ann's event was held at Friar's Head, one of the top golf courses in the world.
Kim O'Meara caught up with Ann to hear all about her career and life off the field, in particular her Golden Retriever, Skye.
Tell us about your dog, Skye - we'd like to know everything about him!
Skye is the son of the Golden Retriever who won in the sporting category at the Westminster Dog Show. Goldens are my favourite breed and I found out that a breeder in Springs on the East End of Long Island had a litter. I went to see the five adorable puppies from this litter with my sister and her two kids who we're visiting from Florida. What fun as the pups were so cute and excited to meet and play with us! And Skye picked me out! He has long eye lashes and is just gorgeous!
He scampered over to me, jumped in my arms and it was love at first sight! The breeder had nicknamed him 'McDreamy' from the TV show, Grey's Anatomy.
It was an intense process to get this little puppy. The breeders learned about my background to ensure I'd be a worthy parent and wanted to make sure he was going to a good home. I called them everyday to inquire if I had 'cleared' the process. When they said that I could get him, I was so thrilled! My significant other, Scott Vallary, and I drove back to East Hampton and I held the puppy in my arms on the car ride back home to Westhampton, kissing and hugging him often. He is so affectionate and continually wants to jump in my arms to soak in all the love - all 75 pounds of him! Scott adores Skye as well and we love to spoil him with lots of love and affection which he gives back tenfold!
You've been a dog owner for many years haven't you? Tell us a little about some of the other special dogs you've had in your life.
My family's first dog was a Cocker Spaniel mutt named Princess. We grew up in Brecksville, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland with lots of land. Then we adopted a Standard Poodle named Shania. A few years after I moved to Manhattan, I got my first Golden Retriever and named him Max (before I discovered that was the most popular dog name in America at the time!). Max had all the guys at the delis on the East side of Manhattan, trained to give him some ham, beef or turkey on our morning walks. We spent lots of time in the dog parks in the city where you know the names of the pets more often than the names of their owners.
Max enjoyed the house and yard in The Hamptons and was one of the reasons I moved out East full-time! Then when I met Scott in an airplane 10 years ago and our relationship blossomed, we decided to get a Golden and name him 'Skye!' We're blessed with such a smart, handsome, affectionate pooch!
Did you grow up around animals?
Yes, I used to raise rabbits when I was a kid. My Dad and I built a hutch for them. I got two bunnies and took them to the vet to find out what sex they were. The vet told me my first two bunnies were female but six weeks later, one of the females had babies! (Laughs) That was a bit confusing for me at the time!
We also had an orange canary that I named 'Tangie' and a turtle.
You've had a hugely interesting career beginning with your breaking ground as the first female to host a call-in sports talk show on WFAN, where you still work covering the major golf tournaments as well as for CBS Sports Radio Network. With such a varied work load with these just being the tip of the iceberg in what you host and produce, what's the favorite part of your day? Do you enjoy the variety?
Yes, the variety is key! I enjoy discovering new venues, playing the golf courses before or after covering the US Open or PGA Championships, covering The Masters at prestigious Augusta National every April, hosting and producing TV shows about golf courses in Ireland and Scotland and throughout the world and interviewing some of the most interesting people in the world! There's never a dull moment!
Did you always know you wanted to follow a career in journalism? Sports in particular is pretty male dominant, what advice would you give to any younger reader who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Yes, I've always been an athlete, earned 16 Varsity letters in high school, played tennis on the boy's tennis team because there wasn't a girl's team at the time! But I was most interested in interviewing people and always knew I'd become a broadcaster from my earliest memories. So combining sports and broadcasting was a natural fit for me.
My advice to those who'd like to pursue a career in sports broadcasting is to know your sports history, the biographies of the stars and legends in each sport and read as much as you can about every sport and team to keep up with everything.
'Clearly desire and you'll clearly acquire.'
Figure out what you'd like to do, research it and strategise your career path! And don't be discouraged by rejection or perceived failure! And work hard! Never under-estimate how much work, focus and determination it requires to be successful!
Tennis seems to be enjoying a period of resurgence at the moment with new female stars coming through into the top rankings (we're thinking of Eugenie Bouchard in particular) and the men's game seems ever competitive between the top four, and so with Wimbledon going on right now, we're going to put you on the spot and ask who do you think will win the men's and women's titles?
As long as Serena Williams is healthy, no one can beat her. And Novak Djokovich should prevail at Wimbledon. He's the most powerful and consistent on grass, now that Roger Federer is in his latter tennis-playing years.
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? What would you say Skye's motto might be?
One of my mottos' is 'Work Hard, Play Hard.'
Skye's motto could be 'Play hard and Play harder'...he has a great life - we run every morning, take a swim together and he loves going on the boat and the dingy. At the marina in Southampton, there is an island we've named Skye Island. We take the dingy there with Skye and he runs around and swims in the Peconic Bay and tries to catch the little fish.
If Skye was a sports star, who do you think he'd be and why?
Skye would be Roger Federer. He's good looking, strong, yet not a huge Golden Retriever (he's only 75 pounds). He has grace and class like Federer, and Skye knows he's gorgeous and talented, as Federer is.
If you were to swap roles with Skye for a day, firstly how you think he'd cope being you and what would you love most about being him?
I think Skye would enjoy being me for a day. I lead a much more active life day to day than Skye does...sometimes he looks at me with his telling big brown eyes and wonders, I'm guessing, why I don't slow down a bit and smell the roses more often.
And I wouldn't mind being Skye. He has a great life with his parents (Scott and myself) who love and adore him. He has a great Aunt and Uncle (my sister and brother-in-law) who have two GoldenDoodles, a great Uncle Dan (my brother) and two Grandmas (Cecilia and Patricia) who love him. He's a superstar.
Yes, I wouldn't mind being Skye. And he gets a lot of exercise and we take him on a lot of fun trips. Skye is a regular at my radio show on WPPB 88.3 FM in the Hamptons on Saturday mornings from 9-10 AM EST. (www.peconicpublicbroadcasting.org) He hangs in the studio with me when I'm hosting the show. He's become a celebrity in his own right.
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or Jennifer Lopez = Afghan Hound etc. If the following celebrities and dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be and why...
Alice Cooper – An Afgan Hound with his long, flowing hair and fiercely independent yet sensitive with a fun side!
Novak Djokovic – I think a German Shepherd - strong and agile and very intelligent.
Caroline Wozniacki – I think she'd be a Belgian Shepherd like a Malinois (even though she's Dutch) or a Tervuren - she has long beautiful hair like these breeds and combines elegance and strength on and off the court.
Ann, here are our quick fire questions, are you ready?
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – Big dogs - I like to run and play with dogs that are big and strong. I exercise a lot and Goldens love to run, swim, retrieve anything...always stay active.
Pedigree dogs or cross-breeds – Either. Skye is a pedigree; his father was a champion show dog but I've also had mutts and love them all!
Days off or days at work – I love my days at work because I love my work and most often, I control my schedule so everyday combines some work and exercise and enjoyment.
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Skye or another dog do.
Just today, he cracked me up when I watched him try to catch the little minnows in the Peconic Bay. He'll bob his head in the water and pounce around in the bay for hours trying to catch fish that are too quick for him.
They intrigue him so. Scott said he once caught a two pound dog fish. Often times, he'll head into one of our guest rooms and snoop in someone's suitcase until he finds something of interest -- usually a pair of underwear or a slipper --that he'll parade around the house with, wagging his tail with pride.. Guests soon learn to keep the door to their room closed.
Let us in on some of the secrets of your life. What five items do you never leave home without?
Cool question. If I'm traveling, I never leave home without my running shoes and running clothes, my golf clubs, my make-up, my cell phone, lap top and ipad, many pairs of shoes and bags...oh, that's more than five...I always pack a lot of clothes and accessories for day, evening, golf and exercise.
If you were putting together an all-star US and European Ryder cup team to compete, who would you include and who do you think would win? You can choose from any of the celebrity golf lovers and sports stars you've met over the years.
The US Team would be: Jordan Spieth, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Ted Williams, Alice Cooper, Arnold Palmer, Celine Dion, Billie Jean King, Steve Azar, Tico Torres, Evel Knieval and Charles Schulz.
The European Team would be Rory McIlroy, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price, Roger Federer, Martina Navratilova, Hermann Maier, Novak Djokovic, Graeme McDowell, Alberto Tomba, Nick Faldo, Suzann Pettersen and the member of the All England Club at Wimbledon who when I was in London for a summer semester, got my friend and I onto centre court to watch Wimbledon and got us on the grass practice courts to play! I wish I remembered his name all of these years later!
And, as much as I admire the names I've put on my European Ryder Cup team, I'm patriotic so the USA Team would win!
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – I really enjoy House of Cards, Bates Motel, Revenge and Mad Men.
Album – I love 'Hotel California' by The Eagles and Brandi Carlile's 'The Story'.
Film – I love Breakfast at Tiffany's, Raging Bull and Mary Poppins.
Tell us something no one else knows about you.
That's tough because people know a lot about me but some people don't know that I own most of the television interviews I've hosted and produced with 600 of the top names in sports and Hollywood. Some people know I'm one of the most generous individuals on the planet.
Some people may know that the first 45 record I ever bought was 'Harper Valley PTA' and the first album was 'Crimson and Clover.' That I was as shy as can be when I was in grade school and still am basically a shy person. And perhaps people don't know that I detest disrespectful people and I admire people with good character.That one of the people I admire most is my brother Daniel for the way he takes care of our Mom. And my sister Jean for being one of the best Moms on the planet.
And most importantly, that my Mom is the most cherished person in my life.
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
Having unconditional love every moment of the day, a best friend and companion and a precious furry baby to cuddle with who knows a lot more than we think.
Finish the following sentence, my dog is... the most affectionate baby on the planet!.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Skye had the ability to speak and you could ask him one question and one question only on the basis he could reply, what would you ask him and what do you think that he would say?
I would ask him to tell me what he knows about life. And I don't know what he would say but I do know his answer would blow me away with insight, spirituality and wisdom,
Many Thanks Ann!
Ann Liguori was speaking with Kim O'Meara