Loran Smith on Verne Lundquist

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Loran Smith on Verne Lundquist

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

If you can walk with the crowd and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch.

 

 

 

 

That aphorism by British author, artist and poet, Rudyard Kipling, was written more than a century ago, but it could have been composed for one of America’s beloved sportscasters who spent last weekend in Athens.

Verne Lundquist, whose mellow, resonating voice on the CBS’ Masters broadcast still enraptures viewers who tune in for the April telecast, was honored by the UGA chapter of the National Football Foundation last weekend.  He was honored with the chapter’s “Distinguished American Award,” which was presented by Steve Hatchell, President and CEO of the Foundation.

  Signature honor and lofty praise have been coming Verne’s way since he settled into the broadcasting business soon after he graduated from Texas Lutheran College.

 

 

 

 

The highlight to date was when he was given an Emmy for lifetime achievement when he retired from his play-by-play assignment as the voice of SEC football on CBS.  Fortunately, his voice remains a staple of the broadcast of the Masters.

What sets this genial gentleman apart is that he is a highly accomplished individual who has given of himself to his network and to the brilliant competition he has covered.

It is doubtful that any announcer has been more of an ambassador than Verne and Nancy Lundquist.  Nancy, his adoring wife, must be included because she has always been by his side.  She has been a resident in broadcast booths across the country, sitting quietly and unobtrusively as Verne plied his trade.  

They enjoy travel and hospitality, especially cruises.  During the height of his career, it was commonplace for them to take three-and-four weeks cruises in the spring and summer before the intensity of a demanding football schedule got underway.  About the only port of call they have not made is Antarctica.

They enjoy ocean liner living.  After all, the best wines and the leading chefs are part of high-end cruises.  But there is more for the Lundquist’s.  They enjoy people.   Everybody enjoys dinner with Verne and Nancy.  They are pleasant and hospitable. The attraction is heightened by Verne’s storytelling.   There is no greater raconteur.

Not only does he have world-class stories to share with any audience, great or small—he has the most pleasant delivery with that comfortable voice that falls peacefully on every ear.  

He is about as well connected in the sports world as an announcer could be, but he has time for the little guy.  When people stop him for a photo op, he does not get irritated.  There is no frustration. 

Following his retirement as the SEC play-by-play announcer, Verne chose not to come around for a couple of years.  He did not want to intrude on the broadcast and especially his successor, Brad Nessler.  However, he felt comfortable taking in the 2019 Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, staying with Georgia friends Vernon and Patricia Brinson at Ponte Vedra.

He enjoyed the drive down Georgia highway 15 with a book signing in Vidalia with the publisher of the Vidalia Advance, William Ledford.  It seemed that half the town showed up to buy Verne’s book.  

On game day, he went by the CBS truck to say hello to the technicians, the everyday workers, and staff.  You could see they were all overwhelmed that he would look them up and recall the good times they enjoyed covering Southeastern Conference football.  With friends throughout the conference, he is welcomed on any campus. 

If you recall, he is best remembered for his award-winning commentary when Jack Nicklaus made a birdie putt at hole NO. 17 in 1986 as Jack won his sixth Masters. When the ball dived into the cup, Verne sounded forth with that legendary sobriquet, “Yessir.”   The whole world saw that the putt ended with a birdie putt.  No need to state the obvious, but announcers need to say something.  Verne always knew what to say. Wherever he goes, especially in these parts, he is often greeted with a repeat of his legendary call at Augusta, “Yessir.” 

Verne Lundquist has walked with kings in his bountiful career, seguing from royalty to the ordinary.  That can only be when the progenitor is one with a good heart.

 

 

 

 

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Greg is closing in on 11 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.