The University of Tennessee’s fight song, “Rocky Top,” might be the cell phone ringtone Jim Gallagher Jr. hears any time a new TV gig opens up. But home, sweet home for the lifelong golfer always has been on the course.

“It feels good to be back out here,” Gallagher said Wednesday after finishing a pro-am ahead of the 3M Championship, for which he earned a sponsor exemption. “My status is very limited out here, which is unfortunate because everybody wants to play.”

Even if that might not always be possible at this point in his career, Gallagher, 53, is at least doing the next best thing.

He’s getting more and more Golf Channel opportunities these days after a few years as an analyst for USA and CNBC when those networks carried golf. Gallagher spent all last week doing studio work on Golf Channel’s “Golf Central,” completing three live shows daily in Orlando.

“Long hours but it was great fun,” he said. “Everybody down there was nice. I wasn’t perfect; I know when I made mistakes. My training was pretty much, ‘Here’s a mic, go talk’ and I think I did OK at it.”

Life in front of a camera is nothing new to Gallagher, who has spent time on the course and in towers while calling live golf. But studio work, he said, can be like standing over a sidewinding putt to win a tournament.

“It’s not as easy as people think,” he said. “You have [a producer] talking in your ear [while] you’re telling a story.

“I know about the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour and the LPGA Tour. But you’re covering all of them for ‘Golf Central,’ not just the one event you’re out for. It gets tricky.”

So, too, was the spontaneity of studio work.

At one point in the week the conversation turned to whether Tiger Woods, well out of the Ryder Cup standings, should be a captain’s pick by Tom Watson this fall.

Gallagher said Woods should not. And that wasn’t the only time during the week his Twitter account lit up from couch observers.

“You have to have a little thicker skin,” Gallagher said. “Sometimes I take criticism like anyone else: not as well.”

While he might not play in as many tournaments as he’d like, the spotlight won’t be far away for long.

Gallagher said the Golf Channel plans to use him on-site during its coverage of the Ryder Cup from Gleneagles, Scotland, in September.

Prime tee times

Friday’s Round 1 pairings for the 3M Championship feature a trio of marquee groups in a row off the No. 1 tee.

At noon Brad Faxon tees off with Fred Funk and three-time major champion Vijay Singh. That group will be followed at 12:10 p.m. by Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer, Minnesotan Tom Lehman and defending 3M Champion Tom Pernice Jr. World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie joins Jay Haas and 3M Championship record-holder David Frost at 12:20 p.m.

Local players John Harris (11:10 a.m.) and Don Berry (12:30 p.m.) also start off No. 1 tee on Friday.

Mankato’s Zinne dies

Mankato Golf Club professional Mike Zinne died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 65. Zinne coached Mankato State from 2003-09 and finished tied for 52nd in the 2000 3M Championship, the final year the tournament was held at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.