The game of golf didn’t come easy for Emmy-winning NBC5 Chicago Sportscaster Peggy Kusinski. In fact, golf never even entered her consciousness until 1980 when she was forced to take it as part of a gym class at Resurrection High School. In her mind she thought “What? This is ridiculous – I don’t know anyone who even plays golf.” Little did she know that blowing out both knees her senior year would eventually lead this all-city/all-state basketball player right into golf’s good graces. It would take a few years and a few chance meetings with people who DID play golf for Kusinski to take up the game but now she’s as passionate about golf as she is about her work as an Anchor/Reporter for NBC5 Sports.
During her years in academia, Kusinski participated in team sports like basketball, volleyball and softball with golf being far down on the list of things to do outside of the classroom. After a successful run in high school basketball, Kusinski intended to play for the SIU Saluki squad as a walk-on but had her dreams crushed when she didn’t make the cut. It was a huge blow to her ego, her future and to her athletic endeavors. She said, “I didn’t want my athletic career to end like that…I guess I was pretty naïve because I just assumed I’d be able to walk on and play. As I tell young women athletes now, you may be the best in your high school but just wait until you get to college. You may not even be the best on the bench as the talent pool for college is so much deeper. You have to work harder and with much more intensity and commitment to make it at the college level. Believe me I know from experience!”
Without basketball to focus on at SIU, Kusinski turned her attention to getting a degree in Radio and Television. Prophetically, she began her broadcasting career as an intern for Warner Saunders at WMAQ-TV. Her career was now off and running and she eventually landed in Bristol, Connecticut as a production assistant at ESPN-TV. While working the 6pm to 3am shift, Kusinski asked her co-workers what they did all day to kill time before their shift started and they all said, “we play golf.” And that is when she got her first true taste of the joys of the game…spending time with co-workers, being outside and killing time in a most enjoyable manner.
Her career in full swing, Kusinski went on to serve as a producer for CBS and NBC during the Albertville Winter Olympics and the Barcelona Summer Games, along with anchoring the 2000 Summer Olympics from Sydney, Australia, for ABC Sports. Kusinski made her own headlines by becoming the first woman to host a sports talk show in Chicago, co-hosting WMAQ-AM’s “Sports Huddle.” Her other work in Chicago included radio gigs with ESPN Radio 1000 and was as a sidekick on my personal favorite radio program - the Kevin Matthews Show.
In 2000, Kusinski joined the NBC5 team as a sports reporter and also contributes regularly to the “Sports Sunday” show. Her work has garnered 2 National Emmy Awards as a producer at ESPN, 9 local Emmys - 5 of which were earned while working for WMAQ including two from 2007 & 2011 for “Excellence on Camera.” Her career is still going strong and her beat includes covering the Bears, the Blackhawks and everything in-between. And she’s doing all of this while raising 10-year-old twins Jason, Jr. and Shea, and 4- year-old daughter, Stella Blue, alongside husband, Jason.
With a successful career and a busy family life, one would surmise that this would be the least likely time that Kusinski would get into golf. Kusinski stated, “I actually met my husband, Jason, because of golf. I had been invited out to Medinah by my friend Jane Mikita (hockey legend Stan Mikita’s daughter) to play some golf. Well, I was playing so poorly that after 9 holes, Jane said ‘let’s just quit and go inside for a snack.’ As we were heading into the clubhouse, we ran into her Dad and Jason Kinander…who is now my husband! Once I married into that golf-crazed family, I had a choice to either join them or spend a lot of time home alone. I chose to take up golf and join them! Kusinski adds “so much of our life revolves around Medinah’s social activities and golf. My nephew plays for Ohio State, my sister-in-law played for Tulsa, my late father-in-law, West Kinander, was instrumental in opening the door to women members at Medinah, and my husband, Jason was a co-chair of the 2012 Ryder Cup. Like I said, this family is really into golf so it was either join ‘em or sit on the sidelines. I don’t mind being on the sidelines for my work but when it comes to golf, I’d much rather be on the course – not watching from the sidelines!”
Kusinski continues,“my golf season starts in the spring and lasts until Bears training camp opens and then my schedule is too hectic. I do try to get some rounds in with the women’s 18 group at Medinah on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but once football season starts, it’s pretty much ‘wait until next year’ for me. I DO love the game and as bad as I am at it, my handicap is pretty high, I still love everything about it…being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and just enjoying the challenge of this most difficult yet addictive sport.”
As one of the most honored, respected, and talented sportscasters in the business, Peggy Kusinski epitomizes the Chicago sports scene…gritty yet graceful, tenacious yet tender-hearted, engaging yet eloquent, and always entertaining.
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