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.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.