In Verne Lundquist’s final Masters moment, the hour belonged to him

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Of course, you know the calls. Verne Lundquist provided the soundtrack for so many iconic sports moments, from Jack Nicklaus’ 17th-hole birdie putt at the 1986 Masters (“Yes, sir!”) to Christian Laettner’s jumper at the buzzer in the 1992 NCAA Tournament (“Yes!”) to Tiger Woods’ famed chip at No. 16 at the 2005 Masters (“In your life, have you seen anything like that?!”) to Auburn’s kick-six in the 2013 Iron Bowl (“An answered prayer!”). So many more, too.

But here is something you may not know: On the night of Nov. 22, 1963, Lundquist was just a 23-year-old weekend sportscaster on television and afternoon disc jockey at KTBC-AM-FM-TV, an Austin, Texas, radio-television station owned by Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. That evening, he volunteered to drive CBS News correspondent David Schoumacher and two other CBS staffers the 60 miles from Austin to Johnson City so they could interview friends, relatives and high school classmates of Johnson, who would soon become President of the United States. He never forgot that night. How could you?

But my favorite Verne story is how he met his wife, Nancy. It’s one he told me many years ago for a Sports Illustrated piece. Here it is, in his own words:

We met in a bar — and I hasten to add it was an upscale bar in Dallas. It was a place called Arthur’s. I walked in after I did the 10 o’clock news (at WFAA-TV in Dallas) and I just didn’t want to go home. Nancy and her date were at the bar and her date recognized me from local television and invited me over to have a drink. He introduced me to his date and her name was Nancy Miller. It was their first date, a blind date. So we sat and chatted and her date, Raymond Willie, said to me, “Listen, I know you are single. I’m going to fix you up with a friend of mine and we can all go to dinner.” He looked at Nancy and asked her, “What are you doing Thursday night?” She said, “Nothing.” He said, “Good, you’ll be my date and we’ll fix Verne up with this schoolteacher friend of mine and we’ll go to dinner.” Meanwhile, I’m looking at Nancy thinking she is the prettiest thing I have ever seen in my life. So, Raymond finally left to take care of his business and I asked Nancy, “So, how involved are you with Raymond?” She said, “Oh, this is our first date and it’s a blind date.” So I said, “Well, forget what he is talking about on Thursday night. What are you doing on Saturday night?” She said, “I think I am doing whatever you are doing.”

On Sunday afternoon, Lundquist signed off the air for the final time at CBS Sports after working his 40th Masters, a nice round number that he felt, at age 83, was the way to go out.

“(CBS Sports chairman) Sean (McManus) and I had a conversation a couple of years ago about what would be the proper time to exit stage left, and he and I agreed that 40 had a nice round feel to it and that we would exit from the Masters and CBS at the end of the second week in April this year,” Lundquist said on a recent conference call. “I’ve got so many wonderful memories tied up with our visits to Augusta.”

It was an emotional week at Augusta for the CBS Sports staff because of the retirements of Lundquist and McManus, and Lundquist got so many flowers from various places over this weekend, including Augusta National, ESPN, The Washington Post, and Golf Digest. CBS Sports ran a tribute featuring Verne and Nancy standing on the hole where we often heard him — No. 16.

“They celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary this week at the Masters,” host Jim Nantz said of the couple as CBS came out of the video tribute. “And we will be celebrating you for as long as there is a Masters Tournament, Verne Lundquist.”

Lundquist already had a successful career before reaching the network level. He was the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys from 1972-84 and the sports director for WFAA-TV in Dallas. The “SEC on CBS” job was the first as a lead broadcaster for Lundquist, who has worked for ABC Sports and Turner Sports in addition to CBS. McManus offered Lundquist the play-by-play role for SEC football in 2000, which soon became a big deal because of the SEC’s explosion nationally. It changed how sports fans saw him too.

“(CBS) lost the NFL to Fox in 1994, and I stayed at CBS for one year after that, and then a wonderful guy, the late Mike Pearl who was our executive producer of the Olympics, went to Turner Sports and invited me to come over there and I did for two years,” Lundquist said. “I’ll never forget we were in Nagano, Japan, and CBS had reacquired the rights to the NFL. Sean came up to me … before the men’s (figure skating) championships. We had about six or seven minutes to chat, and he tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Are you ready to come home?’ That’s probably the greatest question I’ve ever received in my life. So I came back, and of course, got back in the Masters rotation. It’s been a great run. Hey, I’m 83 years old. I’ve been blessed to have a sensational professional life and a wonderful personal life. I wasn’t the first to say this, but thanks for the memories.”

In 2016, I traveled to Baton Rouge to watch Lundquist and the CBS SEC football group work in Lundquist’s last season. What I saw in person was how much the people around him cared for him. He was 76 at the time, and the crew looked after him as if he were a father figure.

“He’s the exact same Uncle Verne that I knew back in 1985, the first time I met him,” said Nantz. “Of course, I was very familiar with him before I joined the CBS team. We were assigned to a Christmas Day football game (the Blue-Gray Football Classic) in 1985. I was in my mid-20s, and I found myself working a show with Verne Lundquist. That’s really big. I was nervous about it. The night before the game, Verne and Nancy invited me to join them for dinner, which meant a lot. In a lot of ways, I think that kind of showed me what the CBS culture was about, how you act as a teammate. … Verne unknowingly was mentoring me even back then on how to be inclusive, be kind, be caring, treat people like family. It meant a lot.”

It was lovely to hear Lundquist’s call one last time as Ludvig Åberg, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler each hit No. 16 in the 6 p.m. ET hour. At 6:30 p.m., as Morikawa and Scheffler received large applause from the crowd walking No. 16, Nantz said, “And Verne, that crowd could just as well be standing for you.”

There was Verne with one last birdie call when Scheffler took a 4-stroke lead.

“The hour belongs to Scottie Scheffler,” Lundquist said as the eventual Masters champion left the hole, but he really could have been talking about himself.

In the post-Caitlin Clark era, how can women’s college basketball keep TV momentum? Here’s my piece on it.

A trio of sports media podcasts that might interest you:

• A conversation with ESPN’s vice president of brand strategy and content research Flora Kelly. Kelly explains her role at ESPN, how that informs the company, how her research team works, and the macro trends she sees in sports in 2024.

• A conversation with James Andrew Miller, the best-selling author of books on CAA, ESPN, “Saturday Night Live,” and HBO. Miller discusses ESPN’s Norby Williamson, who had his hand in almost all parts of ESPN’s content and business areas, from programming, production and news during his nearly four decades at ESPN.

• A conversation with Jon Lewis, the founder and editor of Sports Media Watch. Lewis discusses viewership for the women’s and men’s tournaments.

Some things I read over the last week that were interesting to me (Note: there are a lot of paywalls here):

• The best piece I have read this month — Forsaken: 14 years, 140 officers and a dark secret that consumed a small Ontario town. How the Lucas Shortreed case was solved. By Jon Wells of The Hamilton Spectator.

• Kentucky accused of “complicity” as former swim coach allegedly committed sexual violence. By Katie Strang of The Athletic.

• A narco revolt takes a once-peaceful nation to the brink. By Samantha Schmidt and Arturo Torres of The Washington Post.

• Masters of the Green: The Black Caddies of Augusta National. By Latria Graham of Garden and Gun.

• O.J. Simpson’s Hall of Fame spot may be assured, but there’s no rule against some context. By Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports.

• What happens if a generation of sports fans is swallowed up by gambling? By Steve Buckley of The Athletic.

• Inside Amazon’s Push to Crack Trader Joe’s — and Dominate Everything. By Dana Mattioli of The Wall Street Journal.

• To Build Muscle, It’s the Sets That Count. By Alex Hutchinson of Outside.

• America’s Next Soldiers Will Be Machines. By Jack Detsch of Foreign Policy.

• Fifty years later, Henry Aaron’s legacy lives on in Atlanta and beyond. By Michael Lee of The Washington Post.

• A Vigilante Hacker Took Down North Korea’s Internet. Now He’s Taking Off His Mask. By Andy Greenberg of Wired.

• Test Your Exercise I.Q. The New York Times

• The Key Detail Missing From the Narrative About O.J. and Race. By Joel Anderson of Slate.

• Caitlin Clark delivered a winning segment on “Saturday Night Live.

• Did One Guy Just Stop a Huge Cyberattack? By Kevin Roose of The New York Times.

• How AI could transform baseball forever. By Josh Tyrangiel of The Washington Post.

• What Happened to Damages That O.J. Simpson Owed to the Victims’ Families? By Anna Betts of The New York Times.

(Photo of Verne Lundquist at Augusta National Golf Club in 2012: Augusta National / Getty Images)


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