As sad as Frank Chirkinian’s death was this past week, there’s no doubting that he lived an amazing life. His contributions to golf and to television have been chronicled in detail over the last few days. Suffice to say he got just about everything one can get out of 84 years.
Except he didn’t get to be there when the World Golf Hall of Fame finally got around to inducting him. That ceremony will take place on May 9 since Chirkinian was voted in with the Class of 2011.
Why did it take so long? Here’s the answer: The Hall of Fame doesn’t pay nearly enough attention or give nearly enough credit to members of the media who have played a major role in building the sport. While the Hall has gone out of its way in recent years to induct international players (Jumbo Ozaki, really?) and always bends over backward for anyone famous who has played any role in golf – Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore – it is almost impossible for media members to earn the respect from the Hall that many of them, like Chirkinian, richly deserve.
Herbert Warren Wind is in the Hall of Fame. So is Alistair MacKenzie. That’s the list unless you count players who did TV – Gene Sarazen, Jimmy Demaret, Byron Nelson – as media members. It isn’t likely they are in there for their work with a microphone even though Sarazen was wonderful at it, just as he was at anything he attempted.
Dan Jenkins is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Are you serious? Jenkins is to writing about golf what Jack Nicklaus was to playing golf. There’s never been anybody better and, if you trace his contributions to the game through his writing, you can’t possibly make the claim that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
Jenkins isn’t the only one – although his absence is the most glaring. The late Jim Murray made golf writing an art form in the Los Angeles Times for decades. Murray was so good and so respected that when Curtis Strange was the No. 1 player in the world and looked up and saw Murray following his group one day at the Bob Hope he positively glowed.
“Jim Murray out there watching ME,” he said. “It was one of my great thrills.”
Strange got it – how come the Hall of Fame doesn’t get it?
What about Dave Kindred, who has written so well on the sport for various publications for going on 50 years now or Dave Anderson who was good enough to win a Pulitzer Prize – almost unheard of for sportswriters – while with the New York Times but he’s not good enough to share a Hall of Fame with Jumbo Ozaki?
This isn’t to pick on Ozaki but he was best known for wearing the most expensive clothes in golf history; for leading majors after nine holes and, as ABC once noted in a graphic, “winning 48 titles worldwide – 47 in Japan.” There are other players with credentials that aren’t truly Hall of Fame worthy who are in the Hall, but that’s not the point.
There are plenty of others who come to mind who have made the golf world a better place by writing eloquently. With apologies to others not mentioned these names comes to mind: Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post; Art Spander of the San Francisco Examiner; Larry Dorman of the New York Times; John Hopkins of the Times of London. What about Dave Marr who made the conversion from player (and a pretty good one, he won a PGA Championship) to TV announcer better than anyone in history? Remember it was Marr who called the Senior Tour, “life’s ultimate mulligan.” For that line alone he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
It should not have taken this long for Chirkinian to be voted in. It’s sad that he won’t be there. It is a CRIME that Jenkins and Murray and others aren’t already there. Other Halls of Fame routinely honor at least one member of the media every year. Heck, call the inductee the winner of the Herbert Warren Wind Award rather than just lumping them with other contributors.
Whatever George H.W. Bush has done for golf it is entirely different than what Chirkinian or Jenkins have done for golf. Make that distinction.
There are lots of golf fans who think the media is a nuisance, that those of us who write about and talk about golf are lucky to be where we are and should kiss the rings of all those who play the sport superbly. We are all lucky, there’s no doubt about that. But there are also a handful who have made major contributions to the game and to the enjoyment of those who love it. They deserve recognition.
Something should be done now. If nothing else Chirkinian’s death prior to his induction should get people’s attention. The Hall of Fame waited too long to honor him. It would be nice if they recognized that mistake and began to honor some of his brethren while they are still here to enjoy that moment.