Frank Chirkinian, a pioneer in televised golf, will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame after being selected Feb. 9 via the hall’s Lifetime Achievement category. From 1959 to 1996, Chirkinian was the executive producer for golf at CBS and led the network’s Masters coverage. He has been awarded four Emmy and two Peabody awards. Chirkinian, 84, is battling cancer. He spoke to Golfweek on Monday from his home in South Florida.
Q: What was your reaction to being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
A: Stunned. Complete awe. I’m awed by what has happened. This is probably the acme of my life. The recognition from my peers to accept me into the Hall of Fame is beyond my comprehension. I’m really speechless. I never thought that I would ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I don’t know if I deserve it or not, but it was always something that gnawed at the back of my mind, that wouldn’t that be great if I ever got into the Hall of Fame. And by golly, it happened. I hope it happened in time, because I don’t have a whole lot of time left.
I’m going to try to make it with every ounce of my existence. I think it’s such a high point in my career, that I just have to be there. Not only for (the induction), but for the consideration that the board gave for putting me into the Hall of Fame. I just feel it’s absolutely necessary to hang on long enough to get there, even though I’ll probably be in a bloody wheelchair. I just hope not, but I hope I’m there, and my presence is accepted no matter what.
Q: What are you most proud of from your career?
A: One was changing the scoring system (Chirkinian is credited with creating the relation-to-par scoring system). The other was bringing sound. It used to be like watching a silent movie. I put microphones all over the place. I was judicious in hiring announcers.
I liked announcers who were good writers. I didn’t like the cookie-cutter type announcers who had multiple purposes, who could do football, basketball and golf and what not. I ended up with guys who predominantly knew golf more than anything else, which I think was part of the great fiber of our group. I’d take our group of announcers head-and-shoulders over the other networks.
Q: Why was the Masters your favorite tournament to televise?
A: There was always something special. It’s probably the greatest theater in all of sports.
Q: What is your thought on golf on TV today?
A: I’m ambivalent about that. I think that there are too many graphics on the screen today. They miss an awful lot of live golf shots. That was my forte. I showed a lot of golf shots live, and therein lies the difference. My only problem is that it looks like they’re all doing the same thing. They all look alike.