Arnold Palmer ushers in golf on television

By Randall MellSeptember 9, 2009, 10:56 pm

Like most of us, Frank Chirkinian’s first impression of Arnold Palmer came through the television set.

The long-time CBS producer, who brought so many innovations to televised golf, could not invent what he saw in the TV truck in his first Masters’ telecast 50 years ago.

“It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” says Chirkinian, who’s retired today and part owner of a South Florida golf course. “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, `Wow, who is this guy?’” 

Arnold Palmer
The TV camera still loves Arnold Palmer. (Getty Images)

Chirkinian instantly recognized what made Palmer a star.

“Charisma,” Chirkinian said.

With Palmer celebrating his 80th birthday Thursday, Chirkinian is proud to call Palmer a friend. He’s also grateful for what Palmer brought to Chirkinian’s job. It was in following Palmer in the early development of televised golf that Chirkinian was able to elevate the medium to something beyond sport.

Chirkinian’s important innovations directing coverage included a new way of scoring, the notion of scoring in relation to par. He added microphones to tee boxes, and he added blimp shots, but his real legacy was in transforming competition into unscripted drama. It was in his storytelling ability.

In Palmer, he had a real star for his stories.

“The camera is all knowing,” Chirkinian said. “It either loves you, or it doesn’t. It loved Arnold Palmer, and it still loves him.

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, is it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where fans will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

Chirkinian learned that Cinderella isn’t a popular story to tell in golf.

“Jack Fleck was reviled for beating Ben Hogan,” Chirkinian said.

In Palmer, TV had a star for the masses.

Palmer was James Dean in golf spikes. His personality might not have compared with Dean’s, but he had the look. Leaning on a club, cigarette dangling from his mouth, Palmer had a rebel’s heart over the ball. He had a go-for-broke style that made viewers lean into their TV sets.

Though his swing wasn’t the prettiest, a blacksmith’s lash into a corkscrew finish, Palmer’s style connected with the average fan.

“Arnold dispelled the notion golf was elitist,” Chirkinian said. “He was a blue-collar kid, and the average player could relate to his swing. I think Ken Venturi once said, 'I think I saw a swing in that lunge.’ Arnold developed a new corps of viewers. He created Arnie’s Army.”

Palmer’s style helped create drama, because he was always escaping some sort of trouble, carving shots out of the woods to make birdie or save a par.

“The manner in which Arnold won, the way he attacked and made birdies, it was very spectacular,” said Dow Finsterwald, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and friend to Palmer.

It didn’t hurt TV that Palmer cut such a dashing figure.

Bob Toski, the Hall of Fame teacher who won the PGA Tour money title in 1954, knew how Palmer expanded the game’s fan base.

“My wife, Lynn, is a big Arnold fan,” Toski said. “When he came around, she would swoon.”

So would grown men.

“They related to the way Arnold played,” Toski said. “He would be over in the woods, but he was so strong, he had such strong arms and hands, he could play shots out of deep grass and bad lies and still make a 3. He could do that from places where high handicappers made 6.”

All of that helped make Palmer compelling TV.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

For that, golf will always be grateful.

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API purse payout: What Rory, Tiger, field made

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 12:08 pm

Rory McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and collected one of the biggest non-major paychecks of the year. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Bay Hill.

1 Rory McIlroy -18 $1,602,000
2 Bryson DeChambeau -15 $961,200
3 Justin Rose -14 $605,200
4 Henrik Stenson -13 $427,200
T5 Tiger Woods -10 $356,000
T5 Ryan Moore -10 $320,400
T7 Marc Leishman -8 $249,992
T7 Kevin Chappell -8 $249,992
T7 Luke List -8 $249,992
T7 Sean O'Hair -8 $249,992
T7 Patrick Rodgers -8 $249,992
T7 Patrick Reed -8 $249,992
13 Chris Kirk -7 $186,900
T14 Kyle Stanley -6 $137,950
T14 Charles Howell III -6 $137,950
T14 Sam Horsfield -6 $137,950
T14 Bud Cauley -6 $137,950
T14 Grayson Murray -6 $137,950
T14 Byeong Hun An -6 $137,950
T14 Rickie Fowler -6 $137,950
T14 Charley Hoffman -6 $137,950
T22 Brian Gay -5 $89,000
T22 Harris English -5 $89,000
T22 Jason Day -5 $89,000
T22 Graeme McDowell -5 $89,000
T26 Tom Hoge -4 $59,319
T26 Martin Laird -4 $59,319
T26 Emiliano Grillo -4 $59,319
T26 Tommy Fleetwood -4 $59,319
T26 Francesco Molinari -4 $59,319
T26 Keegan Bradley -4 $59,319
T26 Zach Johnson -4 $59,319
T26 William McGirt -4 $59,319
T26 John Huh -4 $59,319
T26 Talor Gooch -4 $59,319
T36 Alex Noren -3 $41,919
T36 Kevin Na -3 $41,919
T36 Brandon Harkins -3 $41,919
T36 Brian Stuard -3 $41,919
T36 Austin Cook -3 $41,919
T41 Ian Poulter -2 $30,305
T41 C.T. Pan -2 $30,305
T41 Adam Scott -2 $30,305
T41 Aaron Wise -2 $30,305
T41 Kevin Streelman -2 $30,305
T41 J.B. Holmes -2 $30,305
T41 Jamie Lovemark -2 $30,305
T41 Ollie Schniederjans -2 $30,305
T49 Lucas Glover -1 $21,965
T49 Ernie Els -1 $21,965
T49 Hideki Matsuyama -1 $21,965
T49 Chesson Hadley -1 $21,965
T49 Sam Burns -1 $21,965
T54 Li HaoTong E $20,470
T54 Mackenzie Hughes E $20,470
T54 Brian Harman E $20,470
T54 Billy Horschel E $20,114
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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 19th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.