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A Letter to My Mentor
Jim Nantz
May 06, 2013
My 27 years at CBS have been shaped by Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi, and after a painful goodbye to the first, here's my tribute to the gentleman I'll introduce at the Hall
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May 06, 2013

A Letter To My Mentor

My 27 years at CBS have been shaped by Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi, and after a painful goodbye to the first, here's my tribute to the gentleman I'll introduce at the Hall

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Saturday night, Heritage week

Dear Kenny,

I'm in a rental house here at Hilton Head with my bride. What a day. Today's broadcast was a tough one, closing as we did with our tribute to the life and times of one George Allen Summerall. When it was over I felt such relief. Between Pat's death and the past month that you spent in the hospital, here on the eve of your Hall of Fame induction, I have felt a strong urge to write you. I've been looking at all of these pictures, of you and Pat together, and it has triggered so many emotions. Time is hurtling by. Can you believe it's been 11 years since we were last here?

Pat's death was a powerful reminder to me to say the things we are feeling to the people most important to us while we can. You have always been so good about that, and I'm going to follow your lead.

What an honor it was for me, Ken, when you asked me to introduce you at your induction. We all know it should have happened years ago. After all, who has had a career like yours? Playing golf at its highest level, teaching, captaining the Presidents Cup team, all your charitable work—plus your 35-year career at CBS. Everybody in golf wishes your health were good enough right now to make that long trip from Rancho Mirage to St. Augustine for the induction. I will accept on your behalf and hand off the hardware to Matt and Tim. Your sons will be beaming, and we all know, with Kathleen at your side, you'll have this infection thing licked in no time and you'll attend next year's ceremony and have your time on the stage. What a night that will be.

I'm trying to decompress from the Masters, but it's not easy. It's funny, some of the things that cross my mind. I found myself thinking this year about the ease with which you made that climb up the steep ladder to our broadcast booth behind the 18th green, even when you were in your 70s. Everyone could see you were an athlete, and how excited you were to be there.

Working with Nick Faldo these past seven years has been a total pleasure, just as it was to work with Lanny Wadkins before him. Lanny is an analyst cut from the Venturi mold. Sir Nick has his own way of doing things, with his ream of stats and his smartphone at his fingertips. And then there was you, Kenny, with your yardage book and your pin sheet. You never stopped being a player.

On Wednesday afternoon, during the par-3 tournament at Augusta, I walked the big course, as you and I did so many times, in the calm before the storm. Paul Marchand was at the tournament this year, helping Freddie rediscover his rhythm, and I thought about the time that you and Paul and I made the Wednesday walk together, when you asked Paul to be your assistant captain on the 2000 Presidents Cup team. We practically had to pick him up off the ground! Paul will be at St. Augustine, I'm sure, for you and for Fred.

Fred. Could two people be more different than you and Fred Couples? You are as intense as he is mellow. And yet you've both been such dear friends to me. How amazing that you are both going into the Hall this year, and that I will be introducing him too. He and I started together in a dorm room at Houston. And now he's part of golf immortality.

That line he had at Augusta last week—that if he won another green jacket at age 53, he'd quit—was pure Fred. It brought to mind your famous run at the '56 Masters, when you were leading through 54 holes as an amateur. Had you won that year you probably never would have turned pro. You would have stayed an amateur for life, just like your stockbroker, Francis Ouimet. Maybe you would have picked up the mantle from Bobby Jones himself and stayed at Augusta forever.

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