At the 1960 Masters, as Arnold Palmer steadied himself over a winning birdie putt, a young CBS anchor named Jim McKay dropped his voice to a whisper: “Arnold Palmer has been 30 years on this Earth. He has never had a more important moment than this one.” It would be his final call at Augusta. Earlier in the week, McKay had found a pay phone mounted on an exterior clubhouse wall to return a call to an ABC visionary named Roone Arledge. McKay was riveted by what he heard, an invitation to span the globe as host of a fledgling show called “Wide World of Sports.”

This year at the Masters, arguably the most successful sports executive since Arledge is going to close his own storied career. Sean McManus, 68, Jim McKay’s son, has led CBS Sports since December 1996. His first Masters as president was Tiger Woods’ “Win for the Ages” in 1997 and, like Tiger, his accomplishments are lengthy and legendary. Most notably, he nurtured the partnership with Augusta National, returned the NFL to CBS and secured massive longtime partnerships with the PGA Tour, the PGA of America, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and, most recently, the Big Ten.


Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports, speaks on SiriusXM at Super Bowl LVIII on February 08, 2024 in Las Vegas.

Cindy Ord

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For all Sean has accomplished, there’s nothing in his portfolio he has taken more pride in than his stewardship of the game of golf, especially the Masters. No one from the executive branch has presided over CBS’ presentation longer than Sean, and he did it during a critical period of innovation. His ability to integrate new technology into CBS’ broadcasts is one reason he has earned 20 Emmy Awards. It’s a far cry from when 12-year-old Sean joined his famous father at the 1967 Jacksonville Open and spent three days cleaning ashtrays and emptying wastepaper baskets while his dad called the action. Sean’s freelance pay was $20 total. The same guy went on to engineer a $2-billion-per-year arrangement with the NFL.

Twenty years after Sean’s father jumped from CBS to ABC, another iconic commentator made the opposite move. Verne Lundquist joined CBS Sports from ABC in 1982 and quickly joined Frank Chirkinian’s team at Augusta. This will be the 40th and final Masters broadcast for Verne, 83, in an illustrious career that included calling SEC football and figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

Verne’s calls are as much a part of Masters lore as the players who pulled off the unimaginable shots. There isn’t a lover of golf who doesn’t remember Jack Nicklaus at the 17th hole in 1986 and Verne’s “Maybe . . . yes, sir!” and Tiger’s hole-out from behind the 16th green in 2005: “Oh, wow, in your life have you seen anything like that?” Verne, with his timing, passion and the sheer richness of his voice, has a way of transporting viewers from their living rooms to Augusta National.

At CBS, he has always been “Uncle Verne,” a trusted mentor colleagues could lean on. I met him in 1985 in Montgomery, Ala., when I was the sideline reporter for the Blue-Gray College Football Classic. On Christmas Eve, the night before the game, Verne and his wonderful wife, Nancy, were sweet enough to invite a young, timid broadcaster to dinner. I was grateful for that gesture and in awe, too. My feelings have never changed.

When it comes time to sign off from Butler Cabin on Sunday evening, April 14, you might detect a touch of melancholy in my voice. It’s difficult to say goodbye to these two incredible gentlemen and friends who for decades helped popularize the greatest event in golf.

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