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.

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''