Hunting TV host leaves mark on Bemidji golf scene
When Jay Gregory isn’t hunting, you can probably find him golfing. Or vice versa.
A newcomer to the region, Gregory has already left his mark at Bemidji Town and Country Club.
In his first season as a member, Gregory took home the club men’s championship last month by finishing 5-under par in the 36-hole tournament. Just last year, he competed in the U.S. Senior Open as an amateur.
Away from the golf course, Gregory is better known as the host of The Wild Outdoors on The Sportsman Channel, a television program he’s been at the helm of going on 29 years.
“Hunting is what I do for a living, so it kind of has to take precedence in certain times of the year, but I’m trying to play more tournament golf now than I really have in quite a few years,” he said. “We get pretty busy in the fall with the TV show.”
When the Pioneer spoke to Gregory last week, he was in Wyoming for the state’s deer hunting opener as filming for the show ramps up for the start of a new season.
“We’ve traveled everywhere from Mexico to Alaska, northern Canada,” he said. “But it’s pretty much the Midwest, and whitetails are the biggest portion of our show. Our show is all archery. We’ve hunted everything over the years.”
Having grown up in Denver and Missouri, Gregory’s life wound through Bemidji only recently. He married Sheila Johnson of Bemidji on Aug. 12 in Florida.
“I live in Iowa, and so we’ve been back and forth between Bemidji and there,” Gregory said. “We joined the club this summer. I love it up there. It’s been great.
“... I plan on spending quite a bit of time around there. Just not the winter,” he laughed.
Gregory hasn’t had a chance to do much hunting around Bemidji yet, but he’s purchased some land and has plans for a bear hunt in Minnesota this fall.
“We’re going to do some filming this fall up here for a little bit, and try and fit it into the schedule,” he said. “It’s a beautiful area.”
3 decades on TV
Gregory spent about 12 years as a golf professional, and was a club pro in Missouri, before an opportunity arose from a local TV affiliate. What started as a hobby has become a nearly 30-year television career.
“I was filming with another company, and a local ABC affiliate was looking for a host for a new TV show. I convinced them that I could do it, which I had no idea if I could or not,” Gregory said. “So, we started the show up. We were pretty successful at the local ABC affiliate that we were on in St. Joe, Mo.”
Gregory submitted a pilot episode to The Outdoor Channel when the network first took to the air.
“The next thing you know, 29 years later and we’re still there,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to get to do something we love. … Of course, my kids are a big part of it now, so that’s even that much better for me.”
His son, Wyatt, 22, is Jay’s co-host and edits the show. His daughter, Whitly, 12, is on the show a lot, too.
“I’m still doing all of the business end of it and I still host the show, but I’m trying to keep them as involved as I can,” Gregory said. “I have other staff, too, that do a great job for us. It’s a team effort, that’s for sure.”
The show now airs on The Sportsman Channel, where it can be seen four days a week, including Fridays at 8 p.m.
Age no obstacle for Gregory’s golf career
He may no longer be a professional, but Gregory has no plans to slow down his golf career.
Having recently turned 55, he’ll be eligible for the U.S. Senior Amateur and a slew of other USGA events.
“That’s about the only thing I can think of to look forward to turning 55,” he joked.
Gregory began playing competitive golf again in his late 40s. One of the highlights of his career came last summer when he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open as one of the top senior amateur golfers in the country.
“That really got my juices going,” he said.
Gregory is set to compete in the Minnesota and Missouri senior amateur championships this fall. He’ll also defend his Kansas City Match Play Championship title, and compete in the Minnesota Senior Match Play Championship.
Gregory shows no signs of slowing down. He hopes to load up his schedule with as many events as possible.
“I look forward to competing in the U.S. Senior Amateur, and if you happen to win that, it gets you invites and you automatically qualify for a lot of big events, like the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Mid-Am,” Gregory said. “There’s just tons of really big tournaments in the senior division.
“The last few years I’ve kind of aspired to try and make it onto the Champions Tour. I did go to Q school a couple times and I didn’t make it. It was a great experience, but I think now with turning 55, I’m more interested in staying an amateur and seeing how far I can go with that.”