Editor’s note: John Derr was a CBS-TV golf announcer from 1958 to 1973. Derr answered to the man known as the father of televised golf, Frank Chirkinian, who died last week after a long battle with lung cancer.
By John Derr
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
I KNEW FRANK CHIRKINIAN WELL. Frank was one of a kind. He was a genius in many ways. Rough, gruff, with a warm spot, lightly hidden in his chest. For some reason, I did not receive as many “yells” from him as the others, but I got my share. Maybe he liked them better than he did me.
When I was in Greensboro, North Carolina, doing the Greater Greensboro Open, I had chest pains early one morning. My own appraisal of the discomfort was I had indigestion, even though I was sweating and feeling pain. CBS colleague Ray Scott called Frank to my motel room. Frank immediately told Ray to call for an ambulance to get me to the hospital.
I resisted, saying, “No. It’s indigestion. I ate fish at the Press dinner last night.”
Frank said, bellowing, “Be quiet. I am calling the shots on this show. You are on the way to the hospital. Relax. Be quiet.”
At 7:47 a.m., I was at Cone Hospital and being sedated.
At 11 a.m., I was feeling better and asked to be released to CBS rehearsal.
At 11:10 a.m., Dr. Townsend said, “You must stay a few more hours. You did indeed have an infarction [heart attack]—not indigestion.”
Reluctantly, Townsend and Chirkinian kept me against my will.
At 1:14 p.m., two hours later, I had the big boy, a blowout job.
At 1:18 p.m., the nurses activated the “blue alert” call.
At 1:33 p.m., Dr. Townsend arrived, only to learn an earlier responder had determined further treatment was not useful and ordered the coverage of my body.
Nurse Nancy Fulton noted these times. She was the nurse who asked permission to do sternum massage. Back then CPR was a primitive thought, not yet endorsed. She did it herself.
A year later, Dr. Townsend confirmed I had had an out-of-body experience. And if Chirkinian had not over-ruled my preference, who knows?
I guess you could say Frank was another friend who was good to me. In my life, he was a shining star. He was a self-proclaimed hero, but we all agreed. Frank was just Frank, and that was good enough for me.
John Derr is an award-winning golf journalist who covered 62 Masters and the author of My Place at the Table. He lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina.