An Enduring TV Legend - This is a very long title that might cause problems.

By Randall MellMarch 5, 2011, 5:19 am

Frank Chirkinian’s gone now, cancer taking him Friday at age 84, but his masterpieces endure.

You won’t see them in any museums, though you might catch pieces of them in Golf Channel highlight shows.

Mostly, they live on in our heads.

You know that picture you have in your mind of Jack Nicklaus coming out of a crouch and thrusting his over-sized putter in the air at Augusta National after making birdie at the 17th on his way to his magical Masters victory in 1986? If you weren’t there, Chirkinian put that picture in your head.

Just as he did the memory of Larry Mize leaping in the air after Mize chipped in from 140 feet at the 11th hole at Augusta National to beat Greg Norman in a playoff in 1987.

Just as he did the memory of Ben Crenshaw bending over and weeping after holing out to win the ’95 Masters in honor of his mentor Harvey Penick.

As the longtime executive producer of golf at CBS, Chirkinian was more storyteller than anything else as a TV director of sporting events, framing history as it was being made.

Though Chirkinian directed telecasts of the Olympics, Indy 500s, U.S. Open tennis and Triple Crown races, he is most closely associated with his work directing 38 consecutive Masters’ telecasts (1959-96).

GolfChannel.com chronicled Chirkinian's induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Feb. 9.
Last month, with Chirkinian’s health failing in a battle with advanced cancer, the World Golf Hall of Fame convened in a special meeting to add Chirkinian to this year’s inductees. It’s sad that Chirkinian won’t be there for the ceremonies in May. It’s sad because he basically invented televised golf. There weren’t really any rules when Chirkinian got into the fledgling TV golf business, so he made up the rules as he went along.

Chirkinian created the modern scoreboard system using scores in relation to par. He gave us leaders at 4 under par. He gave us TV shots from towers, cranes and blimps. He gave us new sounds with microphones at tee boxes. He gave us cups painted white on the inside.

Chirkinian brought his vision to TV screens with an iron fist, but he also did so with a wicked sense of humor.

CBS employees called Chirkinian “The Ayatollah.” Former CBS announcer Pat Summerall pinned the nickname on Chirkinian, and Chirkinian loved it. He once described himself as “probably the most brilliant and innovative son of a bitch that ever worked in television.” Chirkinian's gift was being able to say that in a way that made you smile and believe him.

It was that charm that made him as beloved as he was respected.

Chirkinian knew Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus on a first-name basis. A four-time Emmy winner, he was such a giant personality that he played himself in the movie, 'Tin Cup.'

Even in retirement, Chirkinian made up the rules as he went along.

After purchasing Emerald Dunes Golf Club in West Palm Beach with partners, Chirkinian aimed to create a club like you’ve never seen before. At least, I’d never seen anything like what he intended to create when I met him there to do a story five years ago.

“It’s going to be an iconoclastic club,” Chirkinian said. “I don’t know if it’s my Armenian heritage, but there’s something that rails against being involved in any organization. I am a free spirit.

“We have one rule here: There are no rules. I’m bucking traditions. If you don’t have fun here, it’s your own fault.”

Chirkinian didn’t limit players to foursomes. You could go off in sixsomes if you wanted. He didn’t want small dinner tables in his dining room. He wanted long, stately tables “to break up cliques” and force members to mingle.

Not much for club championships, Chirkinian said he preferred winning the Chirkinian Cup. He said it was a special trophy shared with the winner of special competitions he would stage during cocktail hour from time to time. It was a closest-to-the-pin contest from the back door of the club lounge to the 18th green.

The winner got whatever amount of money was wagered that night, plus a swig from the Chirkinian Trophy, which epitomized the iconoclastic nature of the club and the man himself.

The Chirkinian Trophy was a porcelain bedpan.

“We fill it with Dom Perignon,” Chirkinian said.

Chirkinian’s imagination will be missed, so will his charm and good humor, but his masterpieces endure. 


Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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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