Blog Entry

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

Posted on: March 4, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 8:31 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- In broadcast circles, Frank Chirkinian was a trailblazer, a rulemaker and groundbreaker.

It's not every day that a television producer-director gets enshrined in a professional sports pantheon, but Chirkinian will receive that rare honor this May at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.

It will be a posthumous induction.

Chirkinian, the unquestioned godfather of golf broadcasting, died after a long battle with cancer Friday in North Palm Beach, Fla. He was 84.

Only 5-foot-5, Chirkinian was a nonetheless titan in his field and revolutionized sports broadcasting, especially in golf circles. He truly invented the sports as a broadcast entity at CBS Sports, directed a total 38 of Masters Tournaments, plus college football, NFL games and too many other big events to name. He won four Emmys.

Chirkinian was first hired to direct the CBS coverage of the 1958 PGA Championship near his home in Philadelphia. Chirkinian set up six massive cameras on the four closing holes, including one placed in an oak tree, while legendary broadcaster Jim McKay climbed onto the clubhouse roof near the 18th green.

Imagine covering a mobile sport played over hundreds of acres in spotty lighting with stationary cameras -- the mobile handheld units used today were not invented for several more years.

Because CBS didn't have anybody in Manhattan that knew the first thing about televising golf, they hired the Chirkinian and the game would never be the same again.

"They threw a lasso over me and sent me to New York," he said last year.

Though Chirkinian ruled with the brusque discipline of a four-star general, rope burns were comparatively few based on the length of his tenure. In 39 memorable years of barking into headsets and pushing buttons, he invented a broadcast template that to this day remains largely intact.

Thanks to Chirkinian, CBS was the first to use high-angle cameras positioned in blimps and trees. He used roving reporters on the ground, put microphones in tee boxes and in 1960 first listed scoreboard totals of the players relative to par.

He worked with a series of broadcasting icons, especially in golf, including Pat Summerall, Vin Scully, Ken Venturi and Jim Nantz. He broached no foolishness and screamed at stars and young broadcaster alike, earning him the nickname "Ayatollah," a tag he came to enjoy.

"At first he scared the crap out of me when he yelled," CBS analyst Peter Kostis said. "Then I found out beneath all that was a lovable teddy bear. I will miss him."

In his later years, Chirkinian bought a private golf course in West Palm Beach called Emerald Dunes and played nearly every day with his fellow members until his recent illness.

He handed over the reins to one of his assistants, Lance Barrow, in 1996.

"The success of any entity, corporation or company has to do with continuity of management and that was our strength -- and it still is," Chirkinian said last year.

Chirkinian was added to the Hall of Fame roster this spring, but sadly, he didn't make it to the ceremony. His acceptance speech -- the guy never pulled a punch of cared a lick about political correctness -- would have been unbelievable.

Category: Golf

Since: Mar 16, 2011
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:57 pm

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Since: Mar 16, 2011
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:54 pm

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It's a nice post over here.

Since: Oct 15, 2009
Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:37 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

I read this story because I know how many hours i have watched his work. His production style was successful because it is set up for the viewer. Ken Venturi has his place, perhaps second only to Pat Summeral, as one of the most distinquished sports announcers of alltime. And yes, I realize that i'm leaving out some big names. I would have to imagine his working reltionship with Frank holds some interest. The reason their work was so good was due to their ability to get out of the way of the story on the course, while giving the viewer all the angles and information that set the stage for the drama. When you think about it, this man was responsible for a very large feat, in terms of connecting viewers to the entertainment of pro-tournament golf. Golf sells on televsion for a reason.

Since: Oct 19, 2009
Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:27 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

My wife often asks how I could watch something like golf on's because of the innovations of Frank that I can tell her it's because I enjoy it. The blueprint for producionh and televising golf, espeically The Masters, is what I grew up with and what I always expect as the minimum whenever I see a tournament on TV. He took what he had at the time and made it amost seemd like technology had to catch up with him in order to keep up.  His legacy is an enormous and far-reaching one.  He will be missed, especially his speech at the golf HOF induction!

Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:46 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

Like countless others, I was greatly influenced by Frank Chirkinian. I fell in love with golf through my Dad, and later fell in love with television golf - after joining the CBS golf team in 1979 as "one of Chuck Will's travelling gypsies." Chuck was my second father ... and Frank my impassioned and lovable uncle. 
It was a privilege and an honor to be around Frank and his CBS "family." As Jim Nantz and so many others have said, NO ONE influenced Television Golf ... more than Frank. R.I.P.

Since: Feb 6, 2010
Posted on: March 5, 2011 8:14 am

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

I totally agree about Johnny Miller. He and Curtis Strange have to be the most presumptuous "know-it-alls" in the history of golf broadcasting. I truly believe CBS ratings would go up if they could make a better choice.

Since: Apr 12, 2008
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:25 am

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

RIP Frank.  Probably the reason that I fell in love with the Masters, and golf as a result. 

Thanks for the great memories.

Since: Mar 4, 2011
Posted on: March 4, 2011 9:26 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

He is the reason I watch golf on television......... I dread most of "the Florida swing" - having to stomach Johnny Miller - and now even worse - theGolf Channel too!  I hope Frank's passing gives pause for reflection for all those involved in the game....... Care for it as he did, and all will be well.........

Since: Feb 13, 2008
Posted on: March 4, 2011 8:25 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

I had the pleasure of meeting him when working down in florida at a few courses.  Very nice guy. RIP

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:37 pm

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

Worked for him when I was working Golf TV....couldnt have been a nicer chap.....his is a big loss for the world of golf.....RIP

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