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Former CBS Golf Commentator Ben Wright Enters Alcohol Program

April 23, 1996

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Ben Wright, the CBS commentator removed from golf coverage after reported disparaging remarks about women golfers and lesbians, entered an alcohol rehabilitation program earlier this month, according to a published report.

``He knew he had to do something,″ his wife, Kitty Wright, told Golfweek magazine. ``He could not continue as he had been.”

She said Wright, 63, entered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the first week of April. As a condition of his treatment, Wright was unavailable for comment, the magazine said.

Wright not only consulted with his wife and daughter, Margaret, before checking into the clinic, but he also talked to former CBS colleagues Frank Chirkinian, Jim Nantz and Pat Summerall, Kitty Wright said in remarks published in the April 27 issue of Golfweek.

Summerall, who now works for Fox, completed treatment for alcohol addiction at the Ford Center in 1992 and is now a member of the clinic’s board of governors.

``I’m sure it will help Ben as it did me,″ Summerall said. ``It gave me back my life. It gave me my friendships back. It gave me enthusiasm to work and get involved in other things. I’d be dead now if I hadn’t gone. I was headed that way.″

Kitty Wright did not call her husband’s condition life-threatening, but she said he was heading the wrong way, too.

``This has been kind of building up over time,″ she said. ``Twenty-three years on the road and all the work he’s done, all the parties and functions, they’ve taken a toll. And the last year has been very hard on him. He’s been more and more depressed since the thing in Wilmington.″

Wright’s career began to unravel last May 12 in Wilmington, Del., during the McDonald’s LPGA Championship when he was quoted by reporter Valerie Helmbreck in the News Journal as saying, ``Lesbians in the sport hurt women’s golf,″ and ``women are handicapped (in the golf swing) by having boobs.″

Wright said the article was ``a pack of lies″ and was supported on the air by CBS, which rewarded Wright with a new four-year contract in October.

On Dec. 4, a Sports Illustrated article asserted that Wright did make some of the remarks and quoted Wright as saying Helmbreck was ``a lesbian... possibly with a gay-rights agenda.″

CBS suspended Wright indefinitely with pay on Jan. 9. Wright subsequently apologized to the network, the LPGA and Helmbreck, but maintained that, though he did make some insensitive remarks, he had been ``widely misquoted.″

Kitty Wright wanted to make it clear that her husband is recovering, Golfweek said.

``He sounds terrific when I talk to him on the phone,″ she said. ``I know he feels so much better; he sounds like a new man.″

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