If you've been lucky enough to stop by the BNP Paribas Open this year— or even if you've just been following the tournament via social media— chances are you've seen the face of Palm Desert local Scott Hennessee on the big screen.
Hennessee, who's lived in the desert for the last decade, has taken on the role of a spokesman of sorts for the tournament, appearing in a series of promotional videos covering a wide variety of topics from the groundbreaking of new facilities, to returning a 156mph serve from tennis great Ivo Karlovic.
"There’s just so much to experience around the tennis garden, it’s nice we’re here to be able to make sure everyone knows things going on, on and off the courts," he said of his new role. "And we’re helping to let people get to know the players better as well."
The sports man first got his start in the desert while working for KPSP Local 2 (now known as CBS Local 2). There, he started on the weekends as a sports anchor, and worked his way up to the station's sports director and host of a nightly entertainment program, Eye on the Desert (EOD). While working EOD, Hennessee was able to not only cover the Valley's largest sporting events, but he was tapped to interview some of Hollywood's elite like Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio on the red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Hennessee worked at Local 2 until the merger of KPSP and KESQ-TV in early 2012. Now, he's voicing his talents for Team 1010 KXPS radio, in a daily radio show he does with his father, Dennis.
Getting in with the BNP Paribas Open
It's those local connections and experience that first brought Hennessee to the attention of BNP Paribas Open Assistant Tournament Director DeeDee Felich, who lives in La Quinta and has seen his work for many years.
"Scott was really the first person that came to my mind," Felich told Patch, when describing how tournament officials decided to up the in-house production of such videos in 2013. "I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity and the perfect fit."
Felich said it's important for the tournament to reinvest money into the event, and though they've shown videos on the big screen in the past, it hasn't been to the same extent as this year.
She said Hennessee has been a key to "to make these spots come to life," as "it’s important to have a voice that can be in front of and behind the camera."
On the Courts
"The first week was really busy," Hennessee told Patch. "It’s much like the tournament itself, in that everyone is here when it first starts, but then players start to drop off."
Still, Hennessee said it's been a constant flow of work since before the tournament started, as he's been working on multiple videos a day.
"I did one-on-one interviews with the top men's players before the tournament (Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Nadal)," he said. "Also, we did a behind the scenes piece with the ATP Tour on their annual photo shoot for their marketing campaign. They always do it here at the IWTG, but I never knew about it before."
Though Hennessee says all of the moments have been memorable with this unique opportunity he's been given, one of the shoots will forever stand out.
"Getting on the court with a pro and trying to return Ivo Karlovic's serve was also something I have never done," he said. "That was really cool."
Hennessee said he's also been working on a long-form 30 minute video, filming segments each day of the tournament to put together a start-to-finish recap that will show at the finals.
"I reported a lot of feature content on the tournament over the years, but we have put together more feature content in the last two weeks than I was able to do in 8 years of local news put together," he said. "The tournament has provided the resources and I feel really fortunate to be working with very talented editors, and cameramen."
He spoke very highly of his current crew, who come from all over the world to cover this world-renowned tournament in his backyard.
"I’m from Palm Desert, I just live ten minutes down the road," he said. "I just get to take short trip down the road."
Hennessee says it's great to bring a "local" angle to the tournament, as most of his crew— as is an estimated 80 percent of attendees— is from outside the Coachella Valley.
And part of that "local" angle comes in another form.
“I have shown [the crew] how to play shuffleboard at the Beer Hunter… we’ve played a few games, and I’ve yet to loose to my co-workers.”