Longtime golf broadcaster Chirkinian dies

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2011, 7:02 am

NEW YORK – Frank Chirkinian, the longtime golf producer for CBS who helped turn the Masters into one of the most watched events in sports television, has died. He was 84.

Chirkinian died Friday at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., after a long bout with lung cancer, his son told The Associated Press. He was surrounded by friends and family.

The television pioneer was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame just last month, during an emergency vote after it became widely known he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He will be inducted posthumously on May 9 in St. Augustine, Fla., in the lifetime achievement category.

“He squeezed every drop of life out of his 84 years,” his son, Frank Chirkinian Jr., said during a phone interview. “I don’t think there was anything left.”

Described as street-wise and direct, Chirkinian had said recently that getting into the Hall of Fame was the apex of his career – and what a robust career it was.

He produced the first PGA Championship in 1958, at Llanerch Country Club near his home in Philadelphia, and two years later the first televised Winter Olympics from Squaw Valley. He also dreamed up the idea of putting cameras on blimps to cover college football games.

But it was his work in golf that stood out, and at Augusta National in particular.

He produced 38 editions of the Masters for CBS, bringing the majestic fairways and greens of Augusta to fans who could only dream of seeing them in person.

“Frank Chirkinian was a visionary in every sense of the word,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “He was an artist. The sport of golf was presented on television to generations of fans in innovative, imaginative and entertaining ways because of Frank.”

Chirkinian introduced high-angle cameras and new angles, put roving reporters on the grounds, and made sure to capture the unique blend of sounds – the club hitting the ball, the ball falling into the cup – that came to define modern golf coverage. He even changed the way scores were delivered, according to par rather than by total.

He could be friendly and agreeable, but also surly and demanding – announcer Pat Summerall gave him the nickname “The Ayatollah” in the late 1970s, when the Shah of Iran was deposed and replaced by Khomeini. It was a name that Chirkinian acknowledged he enjoyed.

“He was a friend, a mentor and a father figure to me,” broadcaster Jim Nantz said. “I was blessed to have his guiding hand extended to me at the age of 26. I am comforted knowing, as long as there is golf being televised anywhere in the world, Frank Chirkinian lives.”

Chirkinian left his imprint on many of golf’s defining moments, from the duels between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus that defined the 1960s and ’70s, to the Golden Bear’s back-nine charge to win the 1986 Masters. He called Augusta National “the greatest theater in sports.”

He retired from CBS in the late 1990s, but could still be found on the golf course.

“Frank Chirkinian was a true pioneer,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports. “There certainly would not have been a golf television business without him. And golf may never have developed into such a robust business without the way he connected the game on the course to the viewer at home. He will be sorely missed but the game is better forever because of him.”

Critics recognized his passion and devotion by awarding him five Emmys and a Peabody during his career. He also was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

“The golfing world lost a great ambassador to the game,” said Lance Barrow, coordinating producer of golf and the NFL for CBS Sports. “He did as much for the game as anyone who has ever been associated with golf. His legacy will live on forever.”

That’s why, when word spread that he was undergoing cancer treatment, the Hall of Fame board – including members of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and European Tourh – held an emergency vote last month to elect him alongside Ernie Els, Doug Ford, Jumbo Ozaki, Jock Hutchison and George H.W. Bush. Those five were elected last September.

Chirkinian had hoped to make the induction in May, and his son said he taped an acceptance speech that will be played during the ceremony. His family plans to attend in his honor.

“I think it really brightened his last few days,” Frank Chirkinian Jr. said. “I think this was kind of the crowning achievement for his career.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm