There is no current sports announcer more associated with a major event than Jim Nantz and The Masters, a pairing unlike any other, to paraphrase a description you might have heard the former utter about the latter a time or two.
As of this week, Nantz can say he has covered and/or hosted the tournament for CBS for a third of a century — two-thirds of the way toward his goal of covering 50 Masters.
Well, actually, that used to be his goal. At the urging of fellow announcer Jack Whitaker, he recently added a year to make it 51, because that would take him to 2036 — the 100th Masters.
First things first, though.
“A third of a century,” Nantz, 58, said in wonder when the milestone was pointed out to him last week on a call with reporters to promote CBS’ coverage.
Asked whether the experience ever gets old for him, given his oft-stated reverence for the event, he said, “I can’t honestly tap into what it felt like back in 1986, although I can tell you I was absolutely mortified by the gravity of the assignment. I was a 26-year-old kid who was going to work for (famed producer/director) Frank Chirkinian to broadcast the Masters tournament. I had dreamt of this as a young boy.
“Internally, I felt that I was in over my head. Of course I’m trying to act way beyond my years and act unaffected and present myself as being unflappable, best I can. But I was definitely jittery and a bundle of nerves internally. That’s what I remember about being there the first time.”
Nantz said he tries not to think about golf until after his NCAA men’s basketball tournament duties are through, typically the Monday of Masters week. Then it’s off to Augusta.
“I think more than anything, I feel appreciation for going there. Sure, I had a goal of one day wanting to broadcast 50 Masters. (Analyst) Ken Venturi kind of set that goal for me. But that sounds like it’s miles and years away. I’m just grateful to have the chance to go back there.
“Every single one has been special. To me, it’s the ultimate event in the sport, and just to be able to lend a voice to this production that our team puts together every year, I’ve ridden through the Chirkinian years and (producer) Lance Barrow and his crew and the masterful job he’s done, and working with (analysts) like Nick (Faldo) and Ken and Lanny Wadkins and the rest of the crew, it has been fantastic.
“More than anything, I show up there with just appreciation. That has never changed.”