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Chirkinian Keeps CBS Atop Leaderboard

February 23, 1996|LARRY STEWART

If you're a golfer, imagine having a job that takes you to the finest courses and lets you rub elbows with the greatest players.

That's what Frank Chirkinian has been doing for 38 years.

"I'm one of those fortunate people whose vocation and avocation are one and the same," Chirkinian said.

He is a golf icon. Chirkinian has done nearly as much for the sport as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino. He showed television how to cover the sport.

He worked his first golf tournament in 1958. He was a studio director for WCAU in Philadelphia when CBS hired him to direct that year's PGA Championship in Havertown, Pa.

He has been directing and producing golf ever since. In 1962, he became CBS' executive producer of golf.

There are some perks that come with the job, because a good way to inspect a course is to play it.

Chirkinian, who will be working his 38th consecutive Masters in April, plays Augusta National about twice a year.

His handicap has been as low as four, and last July 4 he shot a 75 at the Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., a round that included his eighth hole in one. In 1991, he shot a one-under-par 71 at Westlake Country Club in Augusta, Ga.

He has earned enough money to own homes in Augusta and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Twice during the 1970s, he was offered the job as president of CBS Sports and turned it down.

"It was either be out on the golf course or sit behind a desk," Chirkinian said. "I'm really not the desk-job type."

In 1952, he was studying psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, not knowing what he was going to do with his life, when television beckoned. He quit school at the start of his junior year to take a $30-a-week job with WCAU, and his career has had few bogeys.

Until recently.

A few days before Christmas, David Kenin, president of CBS, called Chirkinian into his office and told him it was time for the younger guys to take over.

"It was described to me as the beginning of a transition period," Chirkinian said.

Problem was, Chirkinian, 69, wasn't ready to retire.

"I always figured they'd have to carry me out of the [production] truck feet first," he said.

A compromise was worked out. Chirkinian will produce eight to 10 tournaments this year for CBS, including this week's Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club. At the others, he'll be there in an advisory role.

It's taking a committee to replace him, a group that includes producers Lance Barrow and David Winner and directors Steve Milton, Bob Fishman and Bob Matina. For now, they will share in being the boss. Also, Rick Gentile, CBS' senior vice president in charge of production, has taken a more active role in the golf coverage.

CBS has found itself in a few bunkers recently.

There was Gary McCord being banned from Augusta National after saying such things as the greens there played as if they had been "bikini waxed." Then came the Ben Wright mess.

NBC, which has the U.S. Open, last week locked up the Ryder Cup and the Senior PGA Championship through 2005, and ABC continues to have a formidable lineup.

But CBS, with a 22-tournament schedule that includes the Masters, PGA Championship and President's Cup, is still the leader.


To clear up some confusion, USA's coverage from Riviera today will be shown on a delayed basis, from 4-6 p.m. Saturday's coverage on Channel 2 will begin at noon and Sunday's coverage will begin at 1 p.m.

The CBS announcing team includes Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi at the 18th tower, with McCord, Bobby Clampett, Sean McDonough and Jerry Pate out on the course.

Bill Macatee and Peter Kostis are supplementing the coverage on USA.

TV-Radio Notes

The Angel television announcers for Channel 9 and Prime Sports, it appears, will be Steve Physioc and Jeff Torborg. Both are close to being signed. Should be an outstanding team. Prime will do 31 Angel games this season, up from 26. Channel 9 will do 50. . . . NBC has hired former Tampa Bay Coach Sam Wyche as a football commentator.

On Saturday, Prime Sports has a heavy schedule of women's sports, showing the Pacific 10 women's swimming championships, taped at Long Beach, at 9 a.m., plus two Pac-10 women's basketball games, Arizona State-Oregon at 12:30, followed by California-Washington State. And there are two more women's games on Sunday, including Stanford-Washington at 4 p.m. The USC-UCLA women's game Saturday at 2 p.m., however, is not being televised, although XTRA is providing radio coverage. . . . You'd think Prime would make an effort to show the local game, but then it didn't show Thursday night's UCLA-USC men's game live. Someone needs to do some better planning.

At least Prime deserves credit for showing last week's UCLA-Arizona thriller live and farming out that night's Mighty Duck game. However, a subscriber to Comcast Cable in Costa Mesa complained the Duck telecast on his system had no audio, only crowd noise. There was even a commercial break with no audio. All that could be heard was the arena PA announcer in the background.

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