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Loran - Smith

By Loran Smith
By Loran Smith


AUGUSTA – Verne Lundquist is quite the raconteur, a sentimental preacher’s kid who was gifted with a resonating baritone voice, which puts everyone in a pleasant mood whether he is narrating a championship game or making your day over drinks and barbecue in your back yard. Away from the millions turning in on CBS for another play-by-play chronicling of a major sporting event, Verne is about as much of an average Joe as there is.

He has walked with kings without losing the common touch. He has time for the little guy, but he is also comfortable with the lords of sport who wear championship rings and status blazers.

On Monday of last week, he and his wife, Nancy, were strolling outside of the Augusta National Golf Club and bumped into Jack and Barbara Nicklaus.

As if on cue, Jack asked who had a camera which nearly caused a stampede of volunteers. With that Jack put his arm around Verne’s shoulder and raised a fist as he and Verne said in unison, “Y E S S I R.”

The term has become something of a signature label as sports fans everywhere, especially those of the Southeastern Conference, greet him with a toast accompanied by the familiar shout out.

This was his 40th Masters, which dates to 1983. Unfortunately, it was his last. He missed the 1997 and 1998 tournaments when he was with TBS and has always had especial affection for the Masters.

You see him out under the Big Oak Tree enjoying himself with old friends, celebrities, and luminaries of varied affiliations— along with strangers. Yessir, strangers. People walk up to him and tell him about the time they met him on a European cruise or that they spent time in his company at some SEC venue or bought him a beer in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, or Knoxville.

He has time for them, he makes them feel that he remembers meeting them even though they may be the 957th fan with a similar story. He does have a great memory and sometimes he does relate to their story.

Last Tuesday evening, he was invited for dinner at the Trophy Room by a member of the club. The former champions were having their annual supper, which meant that club members hosted the wives of the former champions.

When the past champions came down for a familial reunion, they all stopped by to say hello to Verne, even the youngest stars of the tour today. They sought Verne out to wish him well and to thank him for his contribution to the Masters. Jon Rahm and Scottie Sheffler knew of Verne’s “Yessir” legend. Nicklaus gave him a back slap and Ben Crenshaw, his fellow Texan, and an old buddy, lingered for several minutes of conversation.

Verne was visibly touched. He has spent a career of making the ath-

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letes he has covered feel appreciated, and now they were reciprocating without anything being scripted—the warmest of genuine fellowship.

While Verne’s alma mater is Texas Lutheran, he has so many close University of Texas friends, that the alumni association in Austin could make him an honorary Longhorn.

To this day, he considers Doak Walker and Darrell Royal to be two of the best friends he ever had. While he makes his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, he and Nancy have a condo in Austin where they spend several months each year.

There have been 25 aces made at the 16th hole at Augusta, Verne’s latent venue, and he has seen 16 of them. When Tiger hit his chip shot in 2005 that wound up bringing about another of Verne’s signature calls, which he ranks 1B (Verne’s call of Jack’s “Yessir” putt in 1986 is 1A), standing behind Tiger on the tee was Olympic superstar, Michael Phelps. Just another memory of an engaging career as an accomplished sportscaster.

We miss former champions from Hogan and Snead to Arnold Palmer, and now we move forward with a thumbs up toast to Verne Lundquist, who had his moment in the sun at Augusta. As we said goodbye to him on the broadcast on Sunday, we rejoice in his having come our way.

Verne Lundquist visited The Advance to sign copies of his book in April of 2022.Photo by William F. Ledford

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