Longtime golf broadcaster Chirkinian dies

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2011, 1:57 am

NEW YORK (AP)—Frank Chirkinian, the longtime golf producer for CBS whohelped turn the Masters into one of the most watched events in sportstelevision, has died. He was 84.

Chirkinian died Friday at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., after a longbout with lung cancer, his son told The Associated Press. He was surrounded byfriends and family.

The television pioneer was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame just lastmonth, during an emergency vote after it became widely known he was undergoingtreatment for cancer. He will be inducted posthumously on May 9 in St.Augustine, Fla., in the lifetime achievement category.

“He squeezed every drop of life out of his 84 years,” his son, FrankChirkinian Jr., said during a phone interview. “I don’t think there wasanything left.”

Described as street-wise and direct, Chirkinian had said recently thatgetting into the Hall of Fame was the apex of his career—and what a robustcareer it was.

He produced the first PGA Championship in 1958, at Llanerch Country Clubnear his home in Philadelphia, and two years later the first televised WinterOlympics from Squaw Valley. He also dreamed up the idea of putting cameras onblimps to cover college football games.

But it was his work in golf that stood out, and at Augusta National inparticular.

He produced 38 editions of the Masters for CBS, bringing the majesticfairways and greens of Augusta to fans who could only dream of seeing them inperson.

“Frank Chirkinian was a visionary in every sense of the word,” PGA Tourcommissioner Tim Finchem said. “He was an artist. The sport of golf waspresented on television to generations of fans in innovative, imaginative andentertaining ways because of Frank.”

Chirkinian introduced high-angle cameras and new angles, put rovingreporters on the grounds, and made sure to capture the unique blend of sounds—the club hitting the ball, the ball falling into the cup—that came to definemodern golf coverage. He even changed the way scores were delivered, accordingto par rather than by total.

He could be friendly and agreeable, but also surly and demanding—announcerPat Summerall gave him the nickname “The Ayatollah” in the late 1970s, whenthe Shah of Iran was deposed and replaced by Khomeini. It was a name thatChirkinian acknowledged he enjoyed.

“He was a friend, a mentor and a father figure to me,” broadcaster JimNantz said. “I was blessed to have his guiding hand extended to me at the ageof 26. I am comforted knowing, as long as there is golf being televised anywherein the world, Frank Chirkinian lives.”

Chirkinian left his imprint on many of golf’s defining moments, from theduels between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus that defined the 1960s and ’70s,to the Golden Bear’s back-nine charge to win the 1986 Masters. He called AugustaNational “the greatest theater in sports.”

He retired from CBS in the late 1990s, but could still be found on the golfcourse.

“Frank Chirkinian was a true pioneer,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBCSports. “There certainly would not have been a golf television business withouthim. And golf may never have developed into such a robust business without theway he connected the game on the course to the viewer at home. He will be sorelymissed but the game is better forever because of him.”

Critics recognized his passion and devotion by awarding him five Emmys and aPeabody during his career. He also was inducted into the Sports BroadcastingHall of Fame.

“The golfing world lost a great ambassador to the game,” said LanceBarrow, coordinating producer of golf and the NFL for CBS Sports. “He did asmuch for the game as anyone who has ever been associated with golf. His legacywill live on forever.”

That’s why, when word spread that he was undergoing cancer treatment, theHall of Fame board—including members of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America andEuropean Tour—held an emergency vote last month to elect him alongside ErnieEls , Doug Ford, Jumbo Ozaki, Jock Hutchison and George H.W. Bush. Those fivewere elected last September.

Chirkinian had hoped to make the induction in May, and his son said he tapedan acceptance speech that will be played during the ceremony. His family plansto attend in his honor.

“I think it really brightened his last few days,” Frank Chirkinian Jr.said. “I think this was kind of the crowning achievement for his career.”

Associated Press writer David Fischer in Miami contributed to this story.

Getty Images

Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

Getty Images

Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

Getty Images

Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

Getty Images

Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”