Verne Lundquist signs off from the Masters: 'It's been an honor and a privilege'

Verne Lundquist called his first Masters in 1983, his last Sunday. (Courtesy of Augusta National)
Verne Lundquist called his first Masters in 1983, and his last on Sunday. (Courtesy of Augusta National)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s a comforting sameness about Augusta National, a sense that you could walk its grounds in 1984 or 2024 or 2084 and still feel the spirit and the soul of the place. The pines that have stood watch for decades around the course will stand for decades to come.

So when an Augusta tradition ends, it’s like one of those pines falling. There will be a swift and seamless replacement, but it’s never quite the same.

Verne Lundquist called his first Masters in 1983. He called his final holes at Augusta National on Sunday evening, closing out a remarkable career voicing many of sports’ finest moments. You know the legendary ones — “Yes sir!” and “In your life?” — but what made Uncle Verne so special was the way he delivered every line with warm grace.

Verne — never just “Lundquist” — has the comforting voice of an uncle, a man who can spin stories for hours on end, the kind of stories you want to write down and remember so you can tell them yourself, so much worse. Listen closely, and you can hear a bit of a devilish edge in there too, like the uncle who will look around to make sure that sensitive ears are out of the room before telling the kind of story you really want to remember.

That warmth has made him a comforting presence for longer than most of the 2024 Masters field has been alive. That means he’s been one of the voices of the Masters for entire generations of players, patrons and viewers. His voice has been the constant, from when children watch the Masters with their parents, then grow up to become Masters fans themselves, then introduce their own children to the tournament.

Every year on the Tuesday of Masters week, Lundquist would commandeer a CBS golf cart and take a slow drive around the course, touring it backwards from 18. That’s a fine way to see Augusta National, but it’s also a fine way to live your life — taking a moment every so often to appreciate the familiar. When you arrive back at the start, you might just have a new perspective on it all.

On Sunday, Tiger Woods took a moment out of his round to go shake hands with Verne, a sign of the ultimate respect that even golf’s greatest have for the man. Later, as Scottie Scheffler walked off the 16th green and toward his rendezvous with Masters history, Jim Nantz thanked Verne for his decades of service. “It’s been an honor,” Verne said, his voice cracking, “and a privilege.” The weight of emotion overwhelmed him, and he wasn’t the only one.

As long as there is a Masters, Verne’s calls will persist. But it’s not the same, and it won’t truly hit until 2025. Starting next year, the Masters will have a different voice on the 16th hole. Whoever that might be, they’ll do a fine job; the Masters has a way of inspiring everyone to bring their best. But they won’t be Uncle Verne. They surely won’t even try.

Verne is fond of quoting a classic phrase, “Thanks for the memories,” and he’s employed it a lot lately. It’s characteristic humility from a guy who knows just how lucky he was to have a front seat to decades of sports history. Here’s the truth, though: as many memories as he enjoyed, he created millions more.