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Loran Smith column: Calls from Masters booth just as much a part of the 75th annivesary as anything else

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

AUGUSTA -- This 75th anniversary week at the Masters has had countless references to the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus winning his final major, but also there was considerable attention focused on the call by Verne Lundquist of Jack's birdie at No. 17 on Sunday, which turned out to be the shot that won the championship.

In those years, the CBS broadcast kingdom at the Masters was presided over by the late Frank Chirkinian, who belonged to the fraternity which advocated that golf on television was to be told by the pictures, not words. At least not very many. A loquacious voice never would have supped with Chirkinian, which is why Lundquist's call is universally renowned in the broadcast industry. The shot and the circumstance are a part of history and so is Lundquist's call.

All Verne said as the putt went in was, "Yessir!" It was brief, and it captured the emotion and the moment. It carried the greatest of verbal exclamation points.

Earlier this week, wherever Verne went on the grounds, he was pulled aside by television broadcasters to recall his 1986 highlight at No. 17, which has been ranked as one of the greatest calls in sports history.

Great sports calls usually take place when there is a historical moment. Lundquist sat at lunch with Bill Griffin, president of Oakmont Country Club, out by the big oak near the clubhouse and recalled some of the memorable calls with which he is familiar.

A favorite of his came when Kirk Gibson, hobbling about on bad knees, hit a homerun off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. Gibson's pinch hit homer gave the Dodgers a 5-4 win and became the catalyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers to upset the favored Oakland A's four games to one. Fans remember Gibson limping along the base path, giving a victorious fist pump as he rounded the bases.

Jack Buck on radio said, "I don't believe what my eyes just saw." On the TV side, Vin Scully, the long time Dodger announcer let Gibson circle the bases and go into the Dodger dugout and take a curtain call before he said, "In the year of the improbable, the impossible has just happened."

Sometimes what is said is memorable in the consequences it brings, and no place has had more of that to take place than at the Augusta National. Cliff Roberts decided that Jack Whitaker, a veteran announcer with CBS, should not return after innocently calling the onrushing Masters crowd to the 18th hole to see the conclusion of one tournament a "mob." When Gary McCord said that the greens were so slick, it appeared that they had been polished with "bikini wax," Roberts, too, decreed that he was unwelcomed.

Steve Melnyk, the long time PGA Tour player who is now a broadcaster, enjoyed reminding Lundquist that he got his start in television by broadcasting a local show in Dallas, "Bowling for dollars." Verne, however, had the last laugh, recalling Melnyk's remarks when he was the 12th hole announcer at the 1983 Masters. Verne's recall goes like this, quoting Melnyk after Pat Summerall at the tower at No. 18 gave Melnyk the cue. "Thank you Patrick,"

Lundquist quoted Melnyk. "We are at the apex of Amen's corner, the par 3, 155 yard 12th hole. The tall Georgia loblolly pines are standing silent sentry as the waters of Rae's Creak meander by. Nick Faldo is on the tee. He has chosen an eight iron. The wind is rushing from his rear."