Postcards from Augusta: Yes, sir, Verne’s still going strong

The CBS party was a big hit Saturday night. For several reasons.

First, they served fried green tomatoes, a real Southern delicacy. Then, strawberry shortcake parfaits. Finally, got to visit with my favorite guy, the legendary Verne Lundquist, whom I razzed for not wearing his Austin Maroons leather jacket. He said in his defense he plans to wear it at the 60th reunion of his Austin High graduating class of about 750 later this month.

Lundquist, who unfortunately was unable to call any of the NCAA basketball tournament, has recovered nicely from back surgery in which two rods were placed in his back for stabilizing and has lost a lot of weight. He and his loving wife, Nancy, were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary Sunday together. “We’ve rarely gotten to celebrate it together,” Verne said. After all, he’s busy with his day job, calling the 16th hole for CBS at the Masters.

He is also heavily engaged in a Texas Lutheran fundraiser coming up in late April. He is, of course, the most famous sociology major in TLU history. He does plan to call March Madness in the future.

Great geezer grouping: One of the most interesting pairings Sunday was the one joining former Masters champions Fred Couples (1992) and Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993). Their combined age? It’s 118 years. Contrast that with the golfers in the final twosome, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy, who total 55 years.

Calca … what? My next-cubicle neighbor has been coming to Augusta since 1988, and Wolfgang Scheffler of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung can still remember how Scotsman Sandy Lyle birdied the 18th hole to edge out American Mark Calcavecchia and win the 1988 Masters. “I was in the riser above the crowd off the green,” Scheffler said. “The reporter next to me says: ‘Thank God. Now I don’t have to worry about spelling Calcavecchia the rest of my life.” … Scheffler has twice won the lottery held for members of the press to play the course on Monday (you can win only once every seven years). The burly German said he shot a 92 in his first try from the members’ tees in 1997 and 90 the next. He got around in just 55 putts.

No love lost: Leslie Anne Wade, who represents 1996 Masters winner Nick Faldo, tweeted a story in a British golf monthly about the largest leads ever squandered at Augusta. Faldo, a three-time winner here, was the beneficiary of the historic collapse by Greg Norman, who blew a six-stroke advantage and ended up losing by five.

The tweet from Wade had drawn seven likes by Sunday morning, one of them from Chris Evert, who just happened to be one of the Shark’s former wives. Ouch.

Incidentally, that was the second Masters I ever covered. Norman had dominated the Masters to that point, and all of us were scrambling to find new angles for the eventual coronation for a man who won two British Opens but not one in the States.

When two of us found Jack Nicklaus under the majestic oak tree behind the clubhouse and I asked the six-time Masters winner if a win on this side of the Atlantic would validate Norman’s career, Nicklaus stuck up a finger and said, “Now, he hasn’t won yet.”

The two of us walked away, thinking, “Yeah, right. Come on, Jack.”

I’ve never doubted him since.

Masters tidbits: This Press Building is so formal, there are even two or three attendants in the men’s restrooms. … The caddies and all Augusta National Golf Club employees are allowed to play the course on a special day after the Masters before the course closes at the end of May. … A collection of 18 note cards in the Pro Shop goes for $48. A similar calendar with the watercolor images sells for $58. I bought neither. They sell Masters dog bowls and leashes as well as women’s pajamas. They’ve also brought back the garden gnomes. … We stay in a really cool house about 2 miles from the course. We’ve been there so long, I even take out the trash on Tuesdays.

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