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Masters 2024: Verne Lundquist's reminisces about 'great run' announcing at Augusta

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Photo illustration: Neil Jamieson

April 03, 2024

Slightly unsteady on his feet, not unusual for an 83-year-old man who has undergone a couple of back surgeries, Verne Lundquist admits he is a bit more fretful about climbing into his tower at the 16th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, his broadcast assignment at the Masters Tournament for CBS Sports since 2000. That doesn’t mean he isn’t up for the task one more time.

Lundquist, responsible for iconic calls in the 1986 and 2005 Masters won by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, respectively, will work his 40th and final Masters next week. He had contemplated retirement for several years but arrived at the decision that the 88th Masters should be his last. His departure coincides with (not by accident) that of CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, who leaves after a 27-year run at the network.

“Sean 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,” Lundquist said Monday during a teleconference.

Known for his sweet “golden” voice and relaxed manner in delivering it, Lundquist began his national broadcasting career with ABC Sports in 1974 and then moved to CBS in 1982. The Minnesota native made his Masters’ debut the following year. Other than a brief stint with Turner Sports, he has been with CBS ever since.

His emphatic “Yes sir!” reaction to Jack Nicklaus’ 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in 1986 is memorable for its succinctness, a perfectly restrained reaction to an immense moment as Nicklaus stalked his sixth green jacket. “I can remember thinking to myself as he walked up, keep it simple and get your butt out of the way. And I managed to do that,” Lundquist said. “I boldly predicted ‘maybe’ when it [Nicklaus' putt] was about that far [inches] from the hole. I reacted with what I said with a little yes sir, with slightly more emphasis than that.”

Lundquist considers that his 1A Masters moment, followed by 1B, witnessing Tiger Woods’ improbable chip in for birdie at the 16th hole in 2005. From behind the green, Woods pitched away from the hole into the slope, and the ball then began tracking toward the cup. It paused on the lip for a second before dropping in.

“Oh my goodness,” Lundquist shouted. “In your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?”

“I lean toward Jack Nicklaus in ’86, probably more so because of the fact that Jack is six months older than me, and I tend to remind him every chance I get,” joked Lundquist, who intends to hang around the club late Tuesday to bid a personal farewell to both Jack and Tiger.

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Augusta National

“I want to see Tiger at the end of the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night. I just want to say goodbye to him and thank him. Same with Jack,” Lundquist said. “Those two guys have had a terrific impact on my professional career and I'm in deep gratitude to them both.”

Longtime CBS golf anchor Jim Nantz, fighting back some emotion, said on the teleconference that Lundquist, whom he refers to as “Uncle Verne,” always will be a part of the tradition of the Masters, just as golf greats like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer “make an earthly visit” each April.

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Stephen Szurlej

“It's a week of history where voices, they come back, we hear them again, we still feel and have front of mind the legends of yesteryear. They come back in our lives,” Nantz said. “What I'm saying here is that Verne's going to always have a home with Augusta. He's going to be a part of Augusta forever. And those calls that he's made, they're going to be played back 50, a hundred, 200 years from now … He’s got permanent residence.”

He wasn’t sure how he would find the words to say goodbye to Lundquist or to McManus, but Nantz summed up the challenge with a simple assessment: “It's a heavy week for us.”

Lundquist had a clearer picture how he was going to handle what he figured will be an emotional assignment. He arrives on Sunday and will relish every moment on the grounds. He will take his traditional cart ride on Tuesday, working backwards starting at 18, and he will reminisce just a bit before getting himself ready for duty. And whenever he feels a pang of emotion, he'll apply one simple trick.

“There's a spot on my left thigh that I'll be pinching to make sure I don't shed a tear on the air,” he said. “It's been a great run. Hey, I'm 83 years old and I've been blessed to have a sensational professional life and a wonderful personal life. So I wasn't the first to say this, but thanks for the memories.”

Yes sir.