Frank Chirkinian, Televised Golf’s ‘Ayatollah’, Dies at 84

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (A.W.)—Frank Chirkinian, the Armenian American CBS sports producer and director, died in his home in North Palm Beach on March 4 at the age of 84.

Nicknamed the “Ayatollah,” Chirkinian is credited as being the “godfather” of televised golf. He was the executive producer and director for CBS’s coverage of the masters tournament for 38 years and introduced many innovations to the way golf was broadcast.

CBS credits him for the use of high-angle cameras filming from blimps and trees. Numerous microphones placed around the golf course ensured that the sounds of the game and conversations between golfers would be picked up for television audiences.

This May 9, Chirkinian’s name will be inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla. He won four Emmys and two Peabody Awards, and in 2007 earned the Sports Lifetime Achievement Award.

Chirkinian was born to Armenian immigrant parents. He grew up in Philadelphia. When he got the chance to direct the 1958 PGA for CBS, his innovative approaches impressed the station’s management, earning him a full-time post.

After retiring, Chirkinian, along with partners, bought the Emerald Dunes Golf Club in West Palm Beach. In 2006, speaking with the Golf Channel’s Randall Mell, Chirkinian said, “It’s going to be an iconoclastic club. I don’t know if it’s my Armenian heritage, but there’s something that rails against being involved in any organization. I am a free spirit.”

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