I first heard the golden tones of one Merton Laverne "Verne" Lundquist, Jr. sometime in the late 1960s when he was the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys (from 1967-84). Those throated pipes would see his nickname in the profession become "The Golden Throat."
Maybe one reason I was always drawn to Verne – besides enjoying him talk about and describe mostly Texas athletes, artists, journalists and people I followed, including Roger Staubach, Lance Alworth (Razorbacks), Lance Rentzel (Sooners), Tom Landry, Dan Jenkins, Blackie Sherrod, Bud Shrake, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Darrell Royal Frank Broyles, and Dandy Don Merideth – is the fact that we are both sons of pastors; Verne’s father a Lutheran minister, hence his alma mater becoming Texas Lutheran, where Verne was one of the founders of the Omega Tau fraternity in 1958, before his 1962 stint at Augustana Seminary in Rock Island, Illinois.
I’ve always been drawn to Verne’s combination of being upbeat, genuine, fair and fun. Grounded in true journalism, the Texan’s humanness shines through. Greats in our business like Verne avoid an infection that strikes most all -- in sports hyperbole. Forever true to his roots, Verne’s a Hall-of-Fame guy’s guy before he’s a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster.
The 75-year-old Colorado resident attended Austin (TX) High School where he played basketball and baseball. A Davenport, Iowa disc jockey, Verne migrated to Texas where he began a remarkable career anchoring local TV in Austin (KTBC) and Dallas (WFAA). Like many Oklahomans today, I was drawn to the Dallas Cowboys broadcasts by both the play of those great teams, and the entertaining young broadcasting tandem of Lundquist and Brad Sham when they teamed up in 1977.
Verne’s annual work for CBS in Augusta is the stuff of legend. Two calls in particular. April 13, 1986, 46-year old Jack Nicklaus was in the midst of a legendary rally when he putted for birdie on No. 17. Verne: “Maybe. Yes sir!” Fast-forward 19 years, as an in-his-prime Tiger Woods pitched his second shot at No. 16, Verne came with the unforgettable: “Here it comes…oh my goodness! Oh, wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?”
I called some football games at CBS with Verne, always a prince. But most of my network years of college football were with ABC and then ESPN (1989-2001). One of the things I look back on fondly is having had the chance to work games with most of the legendary broadcasters of our era. I regret not getting to work with Verne more, but I was around him enough to know he’s the real deal. What you see is what you get.
He kindly took a few minutes to chat as he watched all four teams here in Anaheim go through their shootarounds. We talked Tiger, The Masters, NCAA Tournament and the Sooners. One of the few guys I’d truly want to interview/talk with for hours. And you know what? I think he would too. And that says more about his being one of the guys that wanting to talk with this guy from north of the Red.