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A Conversation With Jim Nantz: A Call to Something More

RECENTLY, Club Director interviewed Jim Nantz, CBS Sports commentator, co-founder of the The Calling wine brand and founder of the Nantz National Alzheimer Center (NNAC) to discuss clubs, golf, broadcasting, his pursuits in wine and his work in Alzheimer’s research. Nantz is a three-time Emmy award winner and five-time National Sportscaster of the Year. He has called many of America’s most prestigious sporting events, including the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the Masters. In April Nantz will announce his 32nd Masters Tournament.

Nantz has partnered with wine industry veteran Peter Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, to create The Calling, one of the most highly rated wines since its 2012 debut.

In 2008, he authored the book, “Always By My Side,” chronicling his sports broadcasting career and his close relationship with his father who passed away to Alzheimer’s disease. In 2011, Nantz opened the NNAC with The Houston Methodist Hospital.

The NNAC is a cutting-edge, world-renowned research and treatment center that hopes to one day find a cure for the disease.

Club Director: You are a member of several private clubs. What activities do you take part in at clubs?

Jim Nantz: I treasure my memberships and the chance to spend time with my fellow members.

I wish there was more time to play golf but CBS keeps me
on the run! Truly, I get so much out of being a member by just visiting with friends over a meal or a drink. Take Bel Air Country Club for example—the chance to sit in the mixed grill at the famed “smart table”—I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. Great friends, great dialogue and a group of individuals whose hearts are in the right places.

As a club member and throughout your broadcasting career, you’ve been able to meet and work with general managers at leading clubs. What do you see as the characteristics that make a general manager, and subsequently a club, successful?

JN: I have deep admiration for the club general managers. They are some of the most skilled communicators I’ve ever been around. Their tasks are demanding and varied. You have to be able to lead a large contingent with the awareness that every single employee is a direct reflection of you and the club. Then of course there is the challenge of understanding and serving the entire membership—knowing everyone’s name, likes and dislikes, their guests, etc.

I know it’s not easy. But I’ve met many along the way that I would trust to run a business for me. Brilliant, trustworthy, hard working—an incredible bunch.

CD: NCA’s main focus is to advocate for and provide educational resources to private clubs. What do you see as the value of an organization like NCA?
It’s great to know that there are organizations like NCA supporting the industry’s best interests and promoting its health.

CD: This May, NCA will host its annual National Club Conference at the New York Athletic Club (where you are a member). What makes this club special to you?
The NYAC has a rich history. It serves many purposes to its membership: Great food, camaraderie, accommodations. I’ve loved my association with the club. It’s my home away from home in Manhattan.

CD: From a young age you’ve wanted to call the Masters and have said you wouldn’t trade one Masters for 20 Super Bowls. What is it about the Masters that makes it so special to you? JN: The Masters was always the goal for me—the childhood dream. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be one of the voices entrusted with telling the story of the world’s greatest golf tournament.

CD: You’ve coined the phrase about the Masters, “A tradition unlike any other.” What makes it so?
Everything! The course, its history, the incredible champions who have won the green jacket, the etiquette that is displayed there. Perhaps nothing reflects that tradition more than the Thursday morning ceremonial tee shots. It might be my favorite moment of the year in sports. At sunup, the gathering of legends on the first tee, the showering of appreciation for the men who have won here, it’s an awesome scene. I haven’t missed it in all my years of being there.

CD: You’ve had the chance to golf with former presidents, hall of famers and other notable people. Who has been your favorite person/people to play with?
I’ve been so fortunate to have played with three presidents. President George H. W. Bush (41) and I played dozens of times, primarily at Cape Arundel in Kennebunkport. We also teed it up at Mid Ocean in Bermuda, Houston Country Club and a few other sites. I treasure those memories.

CD: Who would be in your ideal foursome?
At this point in my life my dream foursome would be a round of golf with my University of Houston roommates: Fred Couples, Blaine McCallister and John Horne. What I would give to reunite us all one more time while keeping the stakes the same—pizza!

CD: You’ve been a successful broadcaster for years, now also a successful wine entrepreneur. You partnered with wine businessman, Peter Deutsch, to create your own brand of wine, The Calling. What do you attribute to the early success of your highly rated wines?
Our driving force was to create something truly special: A brand that would one day be iconic and multigenerational. To do that I had to find the right business partner, one with great experience in the industry that would assist in building a brand with the best winemakers, best sourcing, and one who shared the same vision. At last we created, The Calling. From day one, the goal has been to create “the next great American premium wine brand.”

We formed the company just over seven years ago. We went to market in June of 2012. The Calling wines are handcrafted from Sonoma’s finest terroir with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cultivated in the Russian River Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Alexander Valley. The Calling wines have been awarded multiple scores of 90 and above.

CD: What was the inspiration behind the name?
Primarily it is meant for the consumer to relate to the idea of finding one’s calling in life. For us, that means we are pursuing our calling to build something that is great and lasting—crafting artisanal wines that over deliver on price. There is a message in the name, The Calling, which applies to everyone. Go for it—pursue your dreams!

The Calling includes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cultivated in the Russian River Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon (not pictured) grown in Alexander Valley, all of which have been awarded multiple scores of 90 and above.

CD: Where can our readers find your wine?
We are in thousands of restaurants and retail stores, covering all 50 states. Clubs across the country have reported great success with The Calling listed on their wine list and by the glass too. It also has been enormously popular at wedding receptions— the right price point with the perfect messaging in the name.

CD: What has been the most interesting part of your involvement in the wine industry?
I have loved hearing from friends or seeing people share on social media their rave reviews of The Calling. In my broadcasting life, I am a storyteller—so, hearing their stories and excitement for what is in the bottle, makes it all worthwhile.

CD: What are some of your favorite sports memories?
It’s hard to pinpoint a single favorite moment. I’ve been fortunate to see so many compelling events, buzzer beaters and inspirational endings. The Villanova win last year in the men’s basketball National Championship game was an amazing game to call. I’ve done four Super Bowls and they have all been special. Hosting the Olympics from half a world away was a thrill. But as it often does, my heart leads me to Augusta. Jack Nicklaus’ epic 6th green jacket winning performance in 1986 was surreal—and it was my first broadcast at Augusta. And of course having my man Fred Couples taking the title in 1992 and being in Butler Cabin for the presentation—that was out of this world. As many have heard before, we rehearsed that scene back in our dorm room years earlier in our college days.

CD: What sport/event haven’t you broadcasted that you would like to do?
There isn’t one sporting event left on my bucket list. For quite a while I longed to call The Open Championship, or the British Open, as we know it over here. But a few years back the BBC brought me on board for a couple of Opens and I loved every minute of it.

CD: You authored the book “Always by My Side,” detailing the close relationship you had with your father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. You then went on to found the Nantz National Alzheimer Center (NNAC). What has it meant to be able to create such a vital organization to help those who suffer from the same affliction your father had?

JN: The NNAC trumps everything I’ve ever done in my professional career. It is named for my dearly beloved late father and stands as a loving tribute to my dad. In six years it has rapidly grown into one of the foremost research centers in the world for Alzheimer’s. My voice is his voice. We always sounded just alike. I had an epiphany a few years back that his voice could be figuratively heard through my voice. After “Always By My Side” reached the New York Times bestseller’s list, I knew that there had to be something more I could do with my platform—being in people’s living rooms 44 weeks a year. That’s when my wife Courtney and I created and opened The Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist. Our team of doctors is the biggest group of heroes I’ve ever been around. They wake up everyday trying to find a treatment—and ultimately a cure—for this dreadful disease. I believe in them. Good news is on the way.

To further spread awareness and raise money for the critical research needed to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, Vineyard Vines has joined me to produce and market the Jim Nantz “Forget-Me-Knot” ties. The forget-me-not flower has very poignant symbolism. I will wear the “Forget-Me-Knot” on every broadcast as a tribute to those who are in the fight and to the caregivers who are always by their loved ones side. This is a charitable play in full force as I do everything I can to help find a cure. Vineyard Vines has been a great partner, donating 20 percent from the proceeds of the sales to the NNAC. The ties will be available on in April.

CD: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from your father?
Life is too short to be unhappy. Love conquers all. Be kind, respectful and understanding of others and they will be to you.

To view the PDF version of our interview with Jim Nantz, please click here.