Chirkinian is remembered as pioneer of televised golf

 

Frank Chirkinian's 38th and final production of the Masters Tournament for CBS came in 1996.

It was the year Nick Faldo won his third green jacket. From several conversations he had with Chirkinian, Faldo -- now a broadcaster -- took away one sentiment in particular.

"People who don't take risks and try new things never learn anything," he remembers Chirkinian saying.

The words were fitting for a pioneer in televising golf.

Chirkinian's "risks" included innovations such as relation-to-par scoring, multiple cameras, microphones on tees and aerial blimps.

On Tuesday evening, the longtime CBS producer, who won multiple Emmy and Peabody awards, was honored by friends and family with a memorial celebration at West Lake Country Club.

Chirkinian died March 4 of lung cancer at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla. He was 84.

In 1976, Chirkinian, who lived in West Lake part time, became a member of the club and was well known around Augusta.

The club recognized him Tuesday, presenting his son, Frank Jr., with a plaque that signified his place among the club's list of distinguished members.

On hand for the ceremony were Jim Nantz, Pat Summerall, Ben Wright and Gary McCord, who worked under Chirkinian's leadership.

Nantz detailed his experience of entering Augusta National Golf Club this week: "I could still see Frank when I walked in the door. Everybody here feels his presence every day they go to work."

The stories Wright told painted a picture of a man who was never satisfied with anything but the best.

"He once told me, 'I've got a piece of advice for you that you'd be well advised to take to heart,' " Wright said. " 'We're nothing but caption writers in the picture business. And if you can't improve the pictures with your best chosen words, keep your mouth shut.' "

Summerall remembers asking Chirkinian how he spelled his name.

" 'T-A-L-E-N-T ... and don't you ever forget it,' " Summerall remembers Chirkinian saying, with a little colorful language tossed in for effect.

In February, Chirkinian was selected for induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame in the lifetime achievement category. He'll be enshrined May 9.

Lance Barrow, the coordinating producer of football and golf for CBS, took over for Chirkinian upon his retirement in 1996.

"It's like I always said," Barrow noted. "It was like following John Wooden or Vince Lombardi."

Sports Editor John Boyette contributed to this story.

Reach Justin Williams at (706) 868-1222, ext. 116, orjustin.williams@augustachronicle.com.

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