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.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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