Remembering Frank Chirkinian, the man who brought the Masters to TV

News 12 First at 5 / Friday, April 8, 2011

AUGUSTA---If you love watching the Masters on CBS, you can thank Frank Chirkinian. Some say he was the father of televised golf.

He died of lung cancer last month at the age of 85.

I had the chance to sit down with Chirkinian back in 1995, just a year before he would produce his last Masters for CBS Sports.

"It's hard to believe it's been it's been 37 years," he said then. "It seems just like yesterday. And I just can't believe it's all gone by that quickly. I must have had a good time, otherwise it wouldn't have gone that quickly."

For 38 years, it was Frank Chirkinian who decided everything about what you saw and heard from the Masters, as history unfolded year after year right before his eyes.

No one knows this better than Jim Nantz of CBS Sports.

"Well, he took a sport that no one knew how to televise, and he figured out a way to get people interested," Nantz said. "To create drama."

Chirkinian arrived at Augusta National about the same time that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did. Television was black and white. There were 6 cameras back then. And they could only show us the final 4 holes.

Frank Chirkininan's crew at CBS was the first to show us Augusta National in color. It was 1966.

"And here was The Masters in color? It was a revelation, and I think it was the single biggest breakthrough we've had here."

Year after year, Frank Chirkinian figured out a way to make it better--from television towers to the boom cameras.

"I've often said that golf was very good to Frank Chirkinian," Nantz said. "It gave him a wonderful life. But Frank Chirkinian was great to the game of golf."

Years before we would see The Masters in HD, Frank was anxious to show it to us in 3D.

"But if we can ever get to the point where someday we will enjoy three dimensional television, then I will be content," Chirkinian told me in 1995. "I will be a very happy person. I'll go meet my maker at that point in time."

The Augusta National unveiled its first 3D television coverage last year, and Frank Chirkinian lived to see it.

And the Chirkinian legacy lives on. Masters coverage on CBS begins Saturday afternoon at 3:30.

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