Former CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian, whose efforts turned the Masters into one of the highest-rated events in sports TV, died Friday, March 4, in North Palm Beach, Fla, of lung cancer. He was 84.
Chirkinian was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame during an emergency vote last month after his illness became widely known. He also received four Emmys.
The TV pioneer produced the first PGA Championship in 1958 and produced the first televised Winter Olympics, from Squaw Valley, in 1960. He is also credited with the innovation of using blimps to cover college football games.
But he was particularly noted for his work in golf and at Augusta National in particular, producing 38 consecutive editions of the Masters for CBS. He introduced new angles from which to cover golf, had reporters roaming the grounds and believed capturing the sounds of golf, from the clink of the ball in the hole to the chatter between golfers and caddies, with microphones was key. These innovations came to define golf coverage as it is produced today.
Chirkinian grew up in Philadelphia and left the U. of Pennsylvania to take a job as an assistant director at local CBS station WCAU-TV.
He retired from the network in the late 1990s.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, and a son.