Frank Chirkinian, the legendary CBS producer, passed away today at the age of 84, and golf fans the world over owe him their respect and heartfelt thanks.
For nearly 40 years, Chirkinian produced the Masters telecast for CBS.
Nicknamed "The Ayatollah," a nickname he admitted to liking ("It beat being called Adolf."), he is considered to be the father of televised golf. He is credited with mounting cameras on the blimps that fly over sporting events, although he did admit that they don't add much to the telecast.
Chirkinian was known to be very hard on his crews and on-air talent, but he was also fiercely loyal to his people, as they were to him.
It was at the Masters that he made his name, though, becoming a legend in sports broadcasting. Whenever you saw a beauty shot of Augusta National, The Ayatollah was behind it. Whenever an announcer had the presence of mind to not talk over the story the images were trying to tell, you could be sure Chirkinian was screaming in the announcer's ear to "shut the hell up!"
Not much consideration is given to the people behind the scenes, whose voices you don't hear and faces you don't see.
But behind every camera is a cameraman, and overseeing it all is the producer. Chirkinian was one of the best ever.
He did make one notable appearance in the movies, playing himself in the movie "Tin Cup."
In the movie, the title character is pounding ball after ball into the pond fronting the 18th green in the final round of the U.S. Open, refusing to move to the drop area much closer to the green.
Chirkinian, in the role so familiar to him as the producer of the telecast, says, "Somebody tell this clown he doesn't have to hit it from there." (4:34 mark of the video)
It would be easy to imagine Chirkinian saying that very thing if the situation had been real.
Chirkinian was set to be inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame and deservedly so.
It is conceivable that our view of golf on television would be markedly different, if not for Frank "The Ayatollah" Chirkinian.