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

Father of golf broadcasting dies at 84

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
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