Steamboat’s Verne Lundquist ready to sign off after 40 years at the Masters

After four decades of memorable calls, Steamboat’s Verne Lundquist will broadcast his final Masters at Augusta

By Jon Rizzi


Verne Lundquist, winter 2024, from his Steamboat home, discusses his final Masters broadcast after 40 years. Photo by Nick McQueeney

“Maybe…Yes, SIR! “Here it comes … Oh, my goodness! … OH, WOW! IN YOUR LIFE, have you seen anything like that?!

What golf fan does not recognize those calls? They have become as much a part of Masters history as the shots they describe. The first: 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus’ birdie putt on the 71st hole in 1986 to take the lead en route to his sixth green jacket. The second: Tiger Woods’s implausible chip-in birdie on the 16th in 2005 that would eventually deliver his fourth Masters title.

“There’s a permanence to these events,” longtime Masters broadcaster Jim Nantz of CBS Sports says. “When you lend a narrative to iconic moments, you get to ride along with the video and (are) carried into eternity.”

In each of the events in question, the rider isn’t Nantz, but a colleague for whom he’s “lost in admiration” — Verne Lundquist.

Making the Call

A fixture at Augusta National since 1983, the 83-year-old Lundquist has provided a soundtrack to the feats of Seve and Sergio, Ben and Bubba, Faldo and Phil, as well as the heartbreak of Rory, Spieth and the Shark. But for all his memorable calls, the one he quietly made with CBS Sports president Sean McManus two years ago will carry the most permanence.

The two agreed that 2024 would mark Lundquist’s final Masters. He’d already retired from SEC Football in 2016 and the NCAA Final Four in 2018; and he’d called his last PGA Championship at Kiawah in 2021. “Sean said, ‘How about two more years?’ And I thought, that’s perfect. It will be my 40th Masters, which is a nice round number,” Lundquist reports from his home in Steamboat Springs, where, coincidentally, he has lived for nearly 40 years.

His broadcast will also set a record for longevity at the championship, although he acknowledges his reign will be brief. “I will hold the record for exactly one year, because a kid named Nantz — who started in ’86 when he was 26 and Jack won — will be calling his 40th in 2025 and could work into his 70s. And if it happens, he could have more than 50. That record would be unassailable.”

Equally unassailable is Lundquist’s love of Augusta and the Masters, which he calls “the greatest golf tournament in the world.” He and his wife Nancy “have made so many great friends over the years.” They include colleagues Peter Kostis and David Feherty, both of whom he shared a home with for 11 consecutive tournaments, courtesy of CBS. “David’s probably the closest friend I have,” Lundquist says. “I love the guy.”

Verne Lundquist beside a photo, signed by Tiger Woods, of the moment behind one of his signature calls.

Although he’s not overly enamored of having to remember proscriptions such as using “patrons” instead of “fans,” Lundquist applauds the club’s leadership for evolving while upholding traditions. “Back in the days of (General Chairmen) Clifford Roberts and Hord Hardin, there was a different vibe at Augusta,” he says of the once-imperious atmosphere. “With Billy Payne and with Fred Ridley, there’s an openness that you didn’t sense many years ago.”

That openness has publicly revealed itself in the acceptance of female members, inaugurating the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and cosponsoring and hosting the finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt. Additionally, Lundquist reports, it has also manifested itself south of his Colorado hometown, where Payne and 14 other Augusta National members came together a few years ago to create the Windwalker Club off Highway 131.

“They’re good friends and really good people,” reports the announcer, who has been a guest of their fully staffed private fishing camp along the banks of the Yampa River. Three buildings — a huge main lodge and two smaller structures — provide bedrooms, a restaurant and other amenities. “Nancy and I have gone three times for dinner,” he says, before adding that the facility also sports six golf holes — not all par 3s — designed by Tom Fazio with three sets of tees on each.

Live and Let LIV?

Another Steamboat homeowner, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, also has Lundquist’s attention. “My reaction was shock when he announced there was going to be a merger (with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour),” he says. “(How does) what was black yesterday, now become gray? Even white? That kind of changes the scenery and the perception.”

Calling himself “a purist,” Lundquist believes LIV golfers “have gotten in bed with the Devil. It’s a murderous regime. Now there may be backstories about which I’m totally unaware that could certainly adjust my feelings… Who knows what the ultimate resolution will be, but I’m afraid that this is doing damage to the game we all love.”

How does he think that will play out at this year’s Masters, where defending champion Jon Rahm recently signed with LIV? “It will be awkward,” Lundquist says, especially at the champion’s dinner, which Lundquist’s longtime friend Ben Crenshaw will host. At that event last year, three-time Masters Champion and recent LIV signee Phil Mickelson sat at the opposite end of the table from Crenshaw.

“Not that he was ostracized, but there was a certain lack of warmth,” Lundquist says. “And Jon is such a charismatic human being. And he’s a great golfer, good Lord. But he’s going to sit next to Ben, that’s by tradition… and that’s going to be uncomfortable because the feelings are so raw.”

Lundquist’s feelings for Crenshaw run deep. Born 12 years apart, both attended Austin High School in Texas, and have known each other for more than 50 years. Of all his Masters moments, Lundquist says his most emotional came in 2015, during Crenshaw’s final Masters. “When he came through 16 that last time, he looked up and waved,” Lundquist recounts. “I choked up. He just waved. Jim on 18 said, ‘That was for you, Verne.’ I couldn’t even answer.”

Photo by Nick Mcqueeney

Return to the Tower

“Verne’s genius lies in the discipline to have the confidence and composure not to insert himself into the moment,” Jim Nantz marvels. “He just drops in like an undercurrent as the perfect complement.”

That said, Verne Lundquist will himself be one of the moments at this year’s Masters. “I think the egotistical side would appreciate the acknowledgment,” he admits. “But I think it’s cliched to say I don’t want to be part of the story, but I truly don’t want to be part of the story. Acknowledgment, yes. Forty years as a faithful servant. I don’t know what they’ve got planned but I hope it’s relatively low-key, I really do. Because the best golf tournament in the world is going to be going on. And I feel that way.”

He concedes that signing off will be hard. “I’m an emotional guy by nature,” he says. “I have been all my life. The last thing I ever want to happen is to shed a tear on air. I don’t like that possibility. So, I’ll be pinching the inside of my thigh, not really but… I’ll be very conscious of it, I’m sure.”

As of last December, the octogenarian said he felt healthy enough to climb the 15-foot iron-rung ladder to his traditional perch in the booth above the par 3s at holes 6 and 16 — the vantage point from which he made so many unforgettable calls, but where he hasn’t been stationed for the last four years. A sequence of back surgeries prompted the network to let him report those holes remotely, using monitors, from the CBS compound across Washington Street.

He says he decided to return to the tower last April while driving past it in a cart with Nancy. “Instead of the ladder going straight up, they’d tilted it,” he says. “It doesn’t look as high as it used to.”

He shared his observation with “Bill from Boston,” a volunteer who annually spends his two-week vacation guarding the ladder.

“I said, ‘Bill, it looks doable, doesn’t it?’ and he said, ‘Well, buddy, if you’re going back up in that tower, I ain’t gonna let you fall.’ So that is my goal – and Sean (McManus) knows that. I told him at the SEC Championship that I wanted to go back in that tower. I’m 80 percent sure that’s what we’re going to do.

That’s the way to go out,” he says. “Not sitting in a sterile room.”

And what about when he’s sitting at home in Colorado watching the 2025 Masters? “I’m going to be biting the inside of my cheek a little bit next year because it’s been so much a part of my life,” he reflects. “Forty years, that’s a blessing. There just comes a time when you have to sag your shoulders and let your head fall to your waist and say, ‘I’ve done it.’”


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Jon Rizzi is the founding editor of Colorado AvidGolfer.