Before Jim Nantz became the most ubiquitous voice in sports, he was a fine golfer. You’ve probably heard a time or two (or 100) that Nantz was Fred Couples’ roommate at the University of Houston while the two were members of the Cougars golf team. But you might not be aware that Nantz hasn’t put his golf game on public display much in the past two decades, and it stems from an embarrassing incident at the pro-am at the 1999 Byron Nelson.
Here’s how Nantz told the story to Guy Yocom for a “My Shot” interview in the April 2016 issue of Golf Digest:
It wasn’t the end of putting my game on display publicly, however. That didn’t happen until a few years later, at the pro-am of the 1999 Byron Nelson. At a banquet early in the week, I mentioned to Byron that I was playing alongside Fred Couples in the pro-am. “I’ll come out and watch you hit your first shot,” he said. I thought—hoped—that Byron would forget about it. A ton of people were there when I went to the tee. Making it worse, the first-tee announcer gives a ridiculously long introduction that included the phrase, “Jim Nantz, the man who taught Fred Couples how to play golf.” After I pegged my ball, I notice a commotion near the tee. I glance, and the gallery is parting like Moses parting the Red Sea. Here comes Byron, who, after arriving, leans on his cane and watches me, rapt. My mind left my body. My first swing was like a trick shot, the bottom of the driver nicking the ball just enough to make it fall off the tee. After surgically removing the tee so as not to disturb the ball, I take my 3-wood and hit the ball three feet. I glance at Byron, and he’s looking around, confused, as though it might be some kind of joke. And it was a joke. After nubbing my third shot down the fairway, I stood next to one of my buddies, Tommy Spencer, and said, “After this is over, I’m announcing my retirement. I will never do this again.”
But over the weekend, we got a rare glimpse of Nantz hitting a golf ball thanks to Nick Faldo, his broadcasting partner on CBS. And even the six-time major champ was impressed with Nantz’s swing, which is almost as syrupy as his voice. Check it out:
Not bad is right, Jim, especially for someone in dress shoes. Although our favorite part of the video is how Nantz responds to the applause.
“Thank you, friends,” Nantz says. “Thank you, friends.”