Consequently, Oosterhuis won only one tournament on the PGA Tour—the 1981 Canadian Open—and finished no higher than 28th on the money list in 12 seasons. His best finishes in majors were second in the British Open (twice) and a third in the 1973 Masters, which he led after three rounds. In 1986, at 38, he quit the Tour and took a club pro job at Forsgate Country Club in Jamesburg, N.J. Six years later he became director of golf at California's esteemed Riviera Country Club. There he divorced his first wife, Anne, and married Riviera member Ruth Ann Pittluck. In 1993 the Oosterhuises moved to London, where Peter, according to Ruth, "began talking like an Englishman again." That caught the attention of a Sky TV sports producer who needed to fill an empty chair for the British feed of the 1993 PGA Championship, at Inverness, in Toledo.
"I had never played at Inverness, but I did my homework," says Oosterhuis, who supplied opinions whenever the American commentators disappeared for commercials. The week after his tryout, two European tour players praised his work, and one said, "It must have been really helpful, having played the course." Says Oosterhuis, "I decided if I could fool those fellows, maybe I had a future in television."
Three years later the barrel-chested analyst is a seasoned veteran, his natural gifts sharpened by the Golf Channel format, which has him on mike with Laidlaw for three hours at a stretch. His CBS stints, by way of comparison, rendered him invisible and almost mute—a distant sentry interjecting the occasional "it should break left to right" when prompted by anchor Jim Nantz and longtime analyst Ken Venturi.
"With CBS you always have the option to push the button and make a comment," Oosterhuis says, bouncing across the Cranssur-Sierre course in a golf cart on his way to tape an opener for the Golf Channel's first-round coverage of the Canon European Masters. "As a rookie I was hesitant to use it. The action moves quickly and you don't have a lot of time. Mostly it's a question of confidence, and that will come."
As a CBS full-timer, Oosterhuis will start as Nantz's man at the 17th hole. He may find, though, that he's needed closer to the clubhouse. "I think he's a natural for the Venturi role," says Laidlaw. "Peter belongs at the 18th, in the commentary box with Jim Nantz."
A meticulous planner, Oosterhuis has already launched his American campaign—moving, for instance, to Scottsdale, Ariz., not far from CBS colleagues Gary McCord and Peter Kostis and buying a house at Desert Mountain, where he'll have four courses on which to hone his game for the Senior tour.
Today, though, he's standing with Laidlaw in an Alpine meadow, 20 yards below the 7th tee and some 5,000 feet above the Rhone Valley. Each man holds a microphone and each looks over his shoulder, as if expecting Julie Andrews to burst over the ridge in her dirndl.
The hills are alive, as it happens. Not with music, but with sweet yellow grasses and little blossoms that attract bees and, dare we say it, butterflies.
Could be another omen.