Every week, golf fans look to the leaderboard to see which golfers are at the top, in contention or maybe near the bottom. And on those leaderboards, we see whether players are under par or over par, as well how many holes they've played in their round.
But for hundreds of years, golfers and golf fans didn't know or really care about their score in relationship to par. It didn't matter if a tournament golfer was under par, over par or even par. Golfers and fans pretty much had to wait to see every player's scores and then figure out who had the lowest total score to see who won. That's not really convenient for golf fans watching in person or on TV, however. It takes quite a bit of mental math to figure out where all the golfers on the course are relative to each other given how many holes they have left to play. So, it took a television guy to figure out a simple system for golf fans to understand the leaderboard in real time.
Former CBS Sports lead golf producer Frank Chirkinian invented what we know today as under and over par. He wanted golf fans to understand where players were in relationship to par through the number of holes they had played in a tournament. The under or over par total, indicated by red numbers for under par and black numbers for over par, that is shown gives a fan an idea of how a tournament would end at that point in time if every golfer with holes remaining to play makes pars into the house.
Ultimately, a score of under par or over par doesn't really matter. Par is relative, and it's decided by who created the course, or who owns it, or who presents the tournament. The winner of a golf tournament is the player with the lowest aggregate score after all players have completed play. That's it. But, Frank Chirkinian's approach made golf instantly more watchable for millions of people, helping them know quickly what was happening on a sprawling property as the action unfolds.