This year is the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Masters, which produced some of the most famous images in tournament history. It also resulted in some of the best calls in sports television. Some call it the greatest tournament ever played. Jim Nantz refers to it something else.
"That day doesn't even feel real anymore," said Nantz. "I've talked about it more than any single day in my life. It was absolute magic. I didn't know it at the time, but it's going to be, when it's all said and done, one of the great days of my life. It already is."
Nantz was there doing his first-ever Masters when Jack Nicklaus shot 30 on the second nine to take the last of his six green jackets. Verne Lundquist was there, too. Pat Summerall was there. Frank Chirkinian, the renowned producer, was leading the charge. And CBS' golf producer nowadays, Lance Barrow, was working for Chirkinian.
Barrow said recently he tried to get Chirkinian to put Nicklaus on TV early in the day. "Frank said to me, 'Don't talk to me about Nicklaus,'" recalled Barrow. Chirkinian, he said, was all about the drama and Nicklaus was too far back to be a part of it.
But then Jack birdied No. 11, and Barrow couldn't take it anymore. "Frank, I know you said to me Jack doesn't mean anything to this tournament, but he just birdied No. 11," said Barrow. "He called me 'Buddha.' He said, 'Buddha, queue it up. Let's get it going.' I'm not for sure what I did yesterday, but I remember calls from that day."
The normally-stoic Chirkinian nearly lost it at the end.
"That was the only tournament I ever saw him get excited," said Barrow. "Jack hit that putt at 18; it was a long putt. Frank actually stood up and was trying to will that putt into the hole. He was so excited about what was going on. It was one of the great days. I always say it was the greatest day of my career."
The highlights don't do Nicklaus one-stroke win over Greg Norman and Tom Kite justice. And the highlights are absolutely unbelievable.
“I don’t care where I go,” Nicklaus once said. “I always run into somebody and [they] say, ‘You know, I was in an airport in ’86,’ and he says, ‘I canceled my airplane and sat there and watched it because I couldn’t leave.’”
Nantz recently noted that he wanted to call the 100th Masters. The 50th was his first. And he will likely never call a better one than he did that year.
"That day is timeless. I can't believe I was lucky enough to have my first Masters experience coincide with Jack's epic sixth green jacket. A milestone. An epic Masters. Maybe the greatest one of all time," he said