Demanding and delivering excellence

By Brandel ChambleeMarch 6, 2011, 8:18 pm

After the U.S. Open last year at Pebble Beach, I took my three children to Los Angeles for a vacation and we checked into the Beverly Hilton Hotel just off Santa Monica Blvd. only a few blocks from the famed Rodeo Drive.

It was a memorable few days for all of the reasons that make Los Angeles intoxicating.

My good friend Rudy Durand has all the mystique that one acquires through decades of navigating the ill-defined world of the movie business and all the friends. One of those friends owns the Beverly Hilton Hotel and when I go to L.A., Rudy makes sure that I, and in this case my kids, are well taken care of.

Most days were lazily spent at the pool, mere steps away from the bar Trader Vic’s where Elvis used to hang with his paisanos. The manager, Chai, is addicted to golf and to taking care of the guests of the hotel. He treated my children like family – my daughter to the salon, my boys ordering ice cream, soft drinks, hamburgers and an inconceivable amount of french fries.

One day as my oldest son, Brandel Jr. and I were walking through the restaurant near the pool, I spotted a man that I knew much about but had never met: Frank Chirkinian.

The first time that I had heard Frank’s name was shortly after the 1986 Masters – which many people readily agree is the best major ever – which Chirkinian produced for CBS.

Of course people remember that Jack Nicklaus won the championship, but that event was famous for many more things. It introduced us to Jim Nantz who was then on the 16th hole. It gave us Ben Wright’s great call when Jack eagled 15 on Sunday. It gave us the great exchange between Nantz and Tom Weiskopf as Jack deliberated over his shot at 16, a shot that would almost go in. The magic would continue with Verne Lundquist’s call and Jack’s putt at 17.

While the golf was exemplary, so was the coverage with crisp commentary, spot-on analysis and interesting conversation that sucked the viewer in. Frank hired these men and in an industry full of egos, he knew how to subdue, manage, motivate and make them come together as a team that was not unlike a choreographed play. The story goes, as I have heard it, that Frank knew they were on the cusp of something special and also knew that the fever of the moment could get the better of everyone, especially amped-up broadcasters. 

So, he called a meeting and said, “Gentlemen, we are in the making of a great event with Norman, Ballesteros, Watson, Kite and Nicklaus all in position for a run and the only way we can mess this up is to TALK.” 

He didn’t use the word “mess,” but used something stronger that started with an F. Imagine, having brilliant men, paid to talk, ready to talk and telling them not to talk. He then said that he wanted everyone to think of two and three word responses to great shots and use them like exclamation points.

So, the world was given Ben Wright’s, “yes, sir!” when Jack holed the eagle at 15 and then, a few minutes later, Vern Lundquist’s “maybe….. yes, sir!” when Jack holed the birdie at 17. In between when the stage was set at 16 and Jack was walking off the green having tapped in for birdie, Nantz added, “and the Bear has come out of hibernation.” 

These comments – all quick – added to the drama, and as improbable as it sounds gave the show more weight. The tournament was Jack’s but the show was Frank’s. He was a soloist who never wanted to sing in the choir. He was a leader, a pioneer, an innovator, who yelled, screamed, cursed, demanded and was loved. Loved because he made people better, he made shows better when nobody even knew what it meant to produce live golf, he knew.

So I stopped, and for a moment and deliberated whether I should go interrupt Frank as he was having lunch with another man, absorbed in conversation, looking serious and as animated as I had imagined. I turned to Brandel and said, “Come on, I want you to meet a man that is a living legend.” As we got close he saw us, stood up, smiled and called my name.

“Mr. Chirkinian,” I said, “I just wanted to say hi and tell you how much I respect what you have done in your life.”

I shook his hand and introductions were made. His son, Frank Jr., was there and we talked for 10 minutes about the game and TV. He knew and called by name everyone at Golf Channel and had opinions what should be done to make them better, what should be done to make shows better, but was overall very complimentary.

He was sharp, polite, commanding, and above all, healthy. He had a rosy look, similar to Ronald Reagan, similar to every person in North Palm Beach, where he had a home. It was one of those times in life, where the moment holds you in awe. Only a few weeks later I would read that Chirkinian was diagnosed with lung cancer and that it was terminal.

In his passing, I was reminded yet again how quickly we can be robbed of people. I was also reminded of what one can do with a life if they never settle for anything but excellence. Frank Chirkinian demanded it and he delivered it.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.