Jim Nantz is just like you—a disappointed golf fan missing this week's Masters
In a perfect world, Jim Nantz would be spending this Wednesday making his annual solitary walk from the CBS compound down to Amen Corner, gathering himself for the demands of the four days to follow. On the eve of the Masters he would once again reflect on what his career has given him, how fortunate he is to be at Augusta National, and the blessings he has in his life. Then he would chug briskly up the hill toward the clubhouse, deliberately getting out of breath as he shifted gears and began to get psyched for the Masters. This Masters was to be his 35th for CBS, most of them as host of the premier golf event in the world.
But the world isn’t perfect of late and Nantz instead is spending Wednesday like many Americans, sheltered in place at his home at Pebble Beach, Calif. He ventures out for walks and he has an idyllic one, a 4½-mile route that takes him near Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, Monterrey Peninsula and along 17 Mile Drive. But even with six family members in tow, it’s not the same.
“Pebble Beach feels like a ghost town because the centerpiece of it—the resort and golf course—are closed for the first time in its 101-year history,” he says via phone from his home near the course. “They’ve closed 17 Mile Drive except to residents and essential business people. We took a 45-minute walk the other day and in that time, one car drove by. Pebble is normally populated with many second-home owners but it appears they are staying at their primary residences rather than coming here.”
Nantz’s last CBS golf broadcast was at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera on Feb. 16. He’s been at home since that time—save for a college basketball broadcast in Houston—along with his wife, Courtney, oldest daughter, Caroline, children Finley, 6 and Jameson, 4, and Courtney’s father and step-mother. Usually he’s very gabby about goings on in the world of golf, but the isolation has given him less to share and inquire about.
“I miss the game so much, but what can you do?” he says. “We’re adhering to the rules. I’ve needed to go into Carmel a couple of times, and it’s surreal, again virtually empty, with everyone staying six feet from each other.”
Nantz, 60, is filled with very ordinary concerns. “They say the coronavirus is supposed to surge in California sometime in late April,” he says. “How do they know that? We’ve been locked down for three weeks. Nobody’s traveling, so how can it spread? I don’t get it.” He pauses. “I guess we’re all doing the same thing, watching the news, talking with our friends on who’s saying what, it’s human nature to do that. I’m a compulsive news viewer to begin with, but now it’s all I watch. My heart aches for all the victims and their families around the world.”
The walks near his home feature some encouraging moments. “I’ve enjoyed strolling by the old Peter Hay course with our puppy, Ramsey, and watch it transform into the new par-3 course designed by Tiger Woods,” he says. “It’s uplifting seeing people out working, watching them move dirt around. It’s shaping up to be a beautiful sight.”
Work-wise, Nantz has been busier than one might think. There are Zoom tapings with CBS, updates with his associates at Vineyard Vines and his wine brand, The Calling. His greatest priority always is CBS, and there’s much to do there. This weekend there will be two encore presentations—the 2004 Masters on Saturday—with Sunday bringing a rebroadcast of last year’s “Return to Glory.” Nantz spent the early part of this week taping interviews via his computer at home with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for the weekend shows. “We want the presentations to be as stimulating as possible and having Phil and Tiger talk about their wins as they watch the old broadcasts is pure gold for the viewers.”
Nantz is in huge demand in other ways during what would have been Masters week. Although the tournament has been rescheduled for the week of Nov. 9, print, podcast and radio outlets have come calling. “They all have roughly the same angle: What is Jim Nantz up to this week in lieu of calling the NCAA Championship game Monday, followed by his annual visit to the Masters?” he says. “They’re looking for comparisons between normal versus abnormal, and talking about where I normally would be at this given time. It makes the present situation even more sobering.”
Nantz points to a silver lining amid the health crisis. “I’ve never been at home for such an extended period of time and I’m loving the family time,” he says. “March 14 was Finley’s 6th birthday, and I was scheduled to be in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. Instead I was here watching her blow out candles on her cake. That was special. So has the home-schooling of the kids we’ve been doing. Perhaps best of all, Jameson has taken to golf. We hit balls in the backyard and to watch the joy across his face when he flushes a 7-iron and the ball flies 50 yards. It’s a beautiful thing.”
To signal the world is inching back to normal, Nantz has established a personal, if not unusual, threshold. “There’s a little halfway house at Monterey Peninsula’s Shore Course that we ride past on our two-seat bicycle, with Jameson riding in back,” Nantz says. “We always stop there and our friend Chef Ray makes a hot dog for Jameson. I’ve had to explain to Jameson that our ‘secret hiding spot’ is closed for now. It’s hard to explain to a 4-year-old. But when Chef Ray is back making those hot dogs, he’ll believe it’s a perfect world again.”
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