Prince of Pebble comes home

Call him the Prince of Pebble or perhaps The Mayor. Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of golf for CBS Sports, can live anywhere in the world and he loves nothing more than calling Pebble Beach home.

Prince of Pebble comes home

Call him the Prince of Pebble or perhaps The Mayor. Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of golf for CBS Sports, can live anywhere in the world and he loves nothing more than calling Pebble Beach home.

Nantz, 60, isn’t broadcasting this week’s US Open. Rather, he is soaking in the championship as the unofficial chairman of the local welcome committee. He is known to get around town in a Bentley customised golf cart that previously belonged to his broadcast sidekick, Ken Venturi, watch golfers tee off at Pebble Beach from his favorite table at the Gallery Cafe, the same one where Arnold Palmer used to break bread, and even has an omelet named after him at Katy’s Place in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

It was Nantz’s father, Jim II, who inspired his son’s love for the Monterey Peninsula. In 1969, Nantz was 10 years old and living in the East Bay town of Moraga when his family made the three-hour drive to Pebble Beach and rode around 17 Mile Drive, peering out the window at the golf course in the distance. It made an indelible impression.

“My father wanted to make sure we all understood that in his mind Pebble Beach was a paradise worth sharing with his young family,” Nantz says.

Years later, when he got the assignment to go to Pebble Beach to broadcast the 1986 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his time there reaffirmed those childhood memories that this was a special place. He even stopped to look at a home for sale near Spyglass.

“I was starting to understand that in my line of work I could live anywhere I want. I don’t have an office at CBS in New York, not a desk, a phone, nothing,” Nantz says. “So, the whole country is yours. It’s a pretty daunting task if you think about it. But I always thought, Where is there a more beautiful place in the world than right here? I haven’t found one.”

For 25 years, Nantz harboured a dream of possessing an address overlooking golf’s most alluring and coveted golf destination in America. Every year during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Nantz awakened while the sky was still dark, jogged to the par-3 seventh hole and sat on the split-rail fence off the back of the tee and took inventory of his life.

“I used to call it my one-man board of directors meeting,” Nantz said. “The first time I took Courtney out there in 2010, something happened that I had never seen before. A rainbow was draped over us across the sky. It was a perfect 180. I mean, Pebble is the end of the rainbow, but you don’t see them often here. It’s not Hawaii. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one since.

“I just felt like it was my dad sending a message that this was a relationship with Courtney that was a big thing and he was blessing it, and it snowballed to us deciding one day down the road that was the spot where we were going to get married. Right there on the tee, 100 on the front and 100 on the back.”

O

n June 9, 2012, under a flawless blue-sky with an orange hue, the couple did just that, and Nantz carried his bride across the threshold of their new home that night.

In their backyard, Nantz built a miniaturised replica of Pebble’s seventh hole. Using topography maps to ensure the putting surface and surrounding bunkers were identical, the shot from the tee is half the distance and the vertical slope from the tee to the putting surface is half the drop. The theme song to the Masters is part of the rotation of music pumped into the background and Nantz naturally assumes the role of providing play-by-play for his guests. The hole was christened for competition on February 1, 2015, in what Nantz tabbed the Wedding Chapel Open. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and his CBS colleague Nick Faldo, whose ace of the hole went viral on social media, are among the golfers to play it.

He already can imagine a bright future in golf for son Jameson, age 3, and hopes he’ll fall for the game as he did in his youth.

“My wife bought him some plastic clubs and he walks around the house all day with it like Bam Bam [in The Flintstones]. Every day in the backyard he’s hitting balls. I’m going to come off like Earl Woods here, but I can’t wait to show you this,” says Nantz, calling up a video on his smartphone. “Look at the shaft lean at impact. Head down. Look at that. It’s pretty darn impressive.”

Indeed, it is. If he thinks his saliva was the consistency of concrete while calling college roommate Fred Couples win at the Masters, how about someday hosting the Butler Cabin ceremony with his son as champion?

“That’s when I retire,” Nantz says. “I’d put the green jacket on him and say Goodbye, friends. I’m done. I’ve loved every minute of it, but how could I top that?”

Then he’ll retreat to Pebble Beach, to a simple life of taking in outdoor performances at the Forest Theater in Carmel-by-the-Sea, camping out at Arnie’s table at The Gallery Cafe, and telling stories that leave his audience roaring with laughter like only he can. Just look for him there somewhere under the rainbow.

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