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Lance Barrow: new golf guru at CBS

February 26, 1997

When Tiger Woods struck his 3-wood on the last hole at Pebble Beach, needing an eagle to tie for the lead, he paused then walked with the conviction only a great shot could give. And CBS cameras caught it all.

Instead of the customary cut to the meaningless shot of the ball in flight, director Steve Milton kept the camera trained on Woods, whose brief but unmistakable reaction was all that needed to be said about the shot.

When the ball landed on the green 267 yards away, it came as no surprise to anyone watching on TV.

``It’s one of those feel things,″ Lance Barrow, the new coordinating producer of golf for CBS Sports, said about sticking with the player and not following the ball.

``It’s one of those things where you are prepared to do something. We wanted to stay there a moment and see if Costner came over and patted him on the back or something. That kind of stuff was happening.″

That kind of preparation, that kind of anticipation, comes from working for more than 20 years with the man who invented golf coverage on television _ Frank Chirkinian. When Chirkinian semi-retired after 47 years with CBS late last year, Barrow was the logical choice to take over.

``I was introduced at a seminar recently as only the second guy who has ever done this job for CBS,″ Barrow said from Los Angeles, where the network covers the Nissan Open this week.

``I never thought about it until then. I was around Frank for so long I felt like I was prepared for the job. It’s obviously big shoes to fill. But I’m not intimidated. After all, Frank Chirkinian taught me.″

Chirkinian literally had to make up golf coverage when he began as the coordinating producer for CBS Sports’ golf telecasts in 1958. There was no blueprint because no one had done it.

He created such innovations as placing cameras on towers, putting microphones on tee boxes, editing and condensing tournament coverage and instituting the scoring system of listing players’ scores by strokes over or under par.

Barrow, a seven-time Emmy Award winner in his 22 years with CBS Sports, was Chirkinian’s hand-groomed successor and assumed more and more golf responsibilities in recent years.

There was an almost symbolic passing of the torch in the hit movie ``Tin Cup.″ Chirkinian and Barrow played themselves and received major air time as frantic producer/directors trying to make sense of the Kevin Costner character as he first came out of nowhere to lead the U.S. Open then stood on the 72nd fairway hitting ball after ball into the pond in front of the green.

Their scenes together amounted to an anointing of Barrow by Chirkinian as his successor.

Even though Pebble Beach was his first event with his new title, Barrow was closely involved in directing coverage at more then 40 tournaments before that. And he is smart enough to know that you don’t fix something that ain’t broken.

``Basically, you will see the Frank Chirkinian way of covering golf with little tweaks,″ Barrow said. ``We’ve put two announcers on the ground now, for example, which we’ve never done before.″

One of those ground announcers is David Feherty, the whimsical pro from Northern Ireland who asked Woods if he was intimidated by ``that big blue thing to the left of the green″ on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, referring to the Pacific Ocean.

While there may be more of that kind of sass to CBS’ golf coverage, anchored in the tower by the no-nonsense Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi, Barrow is basically a traditionalist who simply loves the game of golf.

He grew up in Texas, where he remembers getting to see Ben Hogan play.

``I developed a sense of tradition for the game,″ he said. ``I love what it represents.″

The 42-year-old graduate of Abilene Christian in Texas said the most frequent complaint about golf coverage on TV is something very basic.

``The biggest gripe that I hear from people who are golf fans is that we don’t show enough scores,″ Barrow said. ``One of the things that we are going to do it is show as much of the scores as we can.″

CBS covers 22 events and more than 110 hours of golf in 1997. The centerpiece is the Masters, followed by the LPGA Championship and the PGA Championship.

``April is always special because of the Masters,″ said Barrow, who will be at Augusta for the 23rd time for CBS. ``What are you going to do if you have Tiger and Norman in the last group on Sunday?″

Barrow, who said he will experiment with some new camera angles, said the Masters is the one sporting event that always seems to live up to its hype.

``When they walk off the ninth green on Sunday at Augusta, it is something else,″ Barrow said with the admiration of a true golf fan.

Frank Chirkinian could not have said it better.

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