Philip Smith: The five second chat that led to decades of magic

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Philip Smith. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Philip Smith. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

It's hard to believe that such a good man has fallen.

My friendship with Phillip Leishman always centred around respect and honesty - essential in any business partnership - as we charged through the 90s with our unique show, The Golf Show.

Looking back we often laughed that our relationship centred around two defining telephone calls.

When I first conceived the show, I had other hosts in mind, until I my mother said: "Oh you've got to get Phil Leishman - he's lovely!"

Phil was on the West Coast, at a race meeting, and the phone line was terrible. The call was five seconds long, and I often wonder what might have been if I hadn't got through.

"Phil, I've got a show I want you to host - The Golf Show." Phil replied: "I'm in! I'm in!" Then the phone cut out. Five seconds! Honestly!

The second phone call was more worrying.

It was day one of The Golf Show and Phil and I were flying to the Russelly Golf Course in Christchurch to shoot our first episode. It was 1995 and Air NZ - our foundation sponsor - had put on the flights.

We were buzzing with ideas and the potential of the show was huge. But then I got a voice mail message as we arrived at the course. I walked away to listen. Phil was off delivering his first piece to camera.

"Gentlemen," said the message from an Air NZ marketing representative. "Gentlemen, the event has been cancelled. I repeat we cannot sponsor your event. It is cancelled."

Firstly, I thought, "Gentlemen"? "Event"? We are a TV show, we're not an event!

Was this a joke? I felt sick. There is Phil in the distance, like a kid in a lolly shop ... and this!

I couldn't do it to Phil. I couldn't tell him during the shoot - even though he was so professional he could host from Antarctica and make it look warm.

Later as we boarded the aircraft, I told him the bad news.

"Don't worry mate, leave it with me," he said with a wink.

This is where the uber-networked Leishman war machine kicked in.

He made a call to someone who was much further up the food chain at Air NZ. In fact it was like the boss of the boss of the boss. I am sure Norm Thompson wouldn't mind acknowledging a very professional business relationship and subsequent friendship with Phil for 30 years.

Within 24 hours we were all very proud to announce The Air NZ Golf Show was on the road again.

Philip Smith and Phillip Leishman owned The Golf Show for a decade.

- NZ Herald

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