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). 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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Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.

Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?

The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.

“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.

Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.

“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”

Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.

“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”

After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.

And the Wildcats better rest up.

Alabama looks unstoppable.

“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”

Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.

After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.

They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.

Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.

“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”

They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.

“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”

That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.

The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.

“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.

It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”

Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.

They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.

Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.

“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”

Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.

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Pairings, tee times set for championship match

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.

“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”

Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.

Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.

Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.

Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)

3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)

3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)

3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)

3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)

4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)

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Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.

Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.

Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.

Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.

Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.

“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.

Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)