A Sense of Huber: The man in my ear

Frank Chirkinian
Getty Images
Our Jim Huber vividly remembers his first encounter with the legendary Frank Chirkinian, who was inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame last week.
By
Jim Huber
PGA.com

Series: A Sense of Huber

Published: Friday, May 20, 2011 | 10:53 a.m.

It was a Monday in August of 1991 and Indianapolis was boiling as Donna Caponi and I walked the fairways of Crooked Stick Golf Club.

The PGA Championship was three days away and we were getting a sense of what this course might offer and how those getting in an early practice round liked it.

A Sense of Huber

PGA.com's Jim Huber provides his thoughts and love of golf and invites you to enjoy and share your passion for the game.

I had been covering golf for decades, first as a newspaperman, then radio and into TV, but this would be my first "live" show. I was to join Donna, an old hand at such things, as a roving reporter for TBS, which carried the tournament in those days.

We were talking to Craig Stadler, if memory serves me, when a runner breathlessly caught up to us.

"They need you back in the compound," he told me. "Things have changed."

Turns out, Ernie Johnson Jr., who was to have hosted the broadcast, had been called to other duties and that I was to sit in the studio instead.

It is one thing to walk the fairways, giving club and distance and an occasional bird call; it is another entirely to don coat and tie and be the drum major. Daunting for me, the rookie.

To make matters worse (or more interesting), CBS provided most of the technical side, a partnership that lasts nicely today, and the man who would be in my ear those first two rounds would be… shudder… the legendary and uber-frightening Frank Chirkinian, who was just inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame last week.

I had heard the stories for years of how he beat and battered even the most veteran of announcers. How delighted must he be to have fresh and tender meat?

"Don't worry about him," Jim Nantz confided. "He's a lotta noise but underneath, he is just a pussycat. Just make sure you're prepared… and brief."

In the hours leading up to opening round, I worked feverishly at both and by the time I finally sat in the host chair that Thursday morning, I figured I was as good as it was going to get.

Helpers, interns, producers, scurried around the small trailer off the 18th green as I was wired up. One brought me a two-inch thick stack of notecards.

"Blimp stuff," he said.

I ignored them. Blimp stuff. I had been watching golf telecasts for years and that was the least of my concerns.
We came on the air nicely, the intense heat a precursor of deadly storms due later.

Chirkinian had been in my ear several times, directing me here and there, his voice low and pleasant. Wow, I thought hurriedly, maybe he's not so bad after all.

We were in our third commercial break.

"Okay, Huber, here's the lineup," he said. "Give me a blimp pop and throw it out to the 14th hole."

Easy.

"Welcome back, everyone, to our first-round coverage of the PGA Championship. You are looking live at Crooked Stick Golf Club, these great pictures courtesy of the Fuji-Goodyear Blimp. Now let's get back to the action at the 14th."

Easy enough.

My cameraman popped his head around the huge machine.

"Did you mean to say that?"

"Say what?"

"Fuji-Goodyear."

"I said that?"

"Think so."

Ohmygoodness, I thought, what was I thinking? Fuji was the blimp that year but I had grown up with the Goodyear and so… wait until Chirkinian tears into me for that one!
Two more breaks went by. He never mentioned it. Maybe he hadn't noticed. Whew.

"Okay, give me another blimp pop, Huber, and this time, it's FUJI ONLY, you dumb --------!"

My earpiece very nearly exited on its own. The fury of the famous Mr. Chirkinian, with a little expletive tossed in for good measure!

And then he laughed. "And throw it out to 16."

For all of the years following, whenever I would run into the great man, he would growl at me and then give me the largest of smiles and a hug.

"Fuji-Goodyear, you dumb ----! Never in all my ----- days!"

I may get some things wrong nowadays but for the rest of my life I will always know who's sponsoring the airship above. And never underestimate the pussycat in my ear.