The plan: meet at Katy’s Place for breakfast, but it turned out that Katy’s was closed that morning; Plan B: The Little Swiss Café.
“Carmel is a great breakfast town,” CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz says, “and I’m a big breakfast guy.” This is a man whose face and voice are as familiar as family to untold millions of sports fans, yet far from shunning public places, he embraces them. No one bothers him, though it’s obvious that other patrons are fully aware of who he is. He’s a fulltime local, and despite his many accomplishments, that is clearly one of the things of which he is most proud.
“You won’t find a family more enamored of the Monterey Peninsula than the Nantz family,” he says. “We’re not accidental tourists.”
Just as he says this, Nantz’s wife Courtney and their two-year-old daughter Finley pop in. Finley immediately wins the room, dressed as she is in a pink tutu, having just finished dance class. With a little urging, she graces her audience with a few steps before snuggling up to dad.
“It’s a great feeling to know that Finley and her baby brother Jameson will grow up here,” Nantz says. It’s obvious that Nantz isn’t just saying these words to enamor himself with the community. Between NFL football, NCAA basketball and golf assignments for CBS, this man spends 44 weeks a year on the road. He’s been just about everywhere, yet chose Pebble Beach as the place to put down roots.
“When I was 9, my family lived in Moraga for a short while,” he recalls. “My dad brought us here and it made a lasting impression on me.”
Later visits as an adult sealed the deal. Each winter since 1986, he has brought the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to dens and living rooms around the world. “That first year, I got this crazy idea,” he recalls. “‘I need to live here.’”
He and then-fiancée Courtney purchased their property in October, 2011, and moved in on their wedding day: June 9, 2012.
“To me, this is a place for spiritual refreshment,” Nantz says. “Three or four days a week I lead this crazy, high-energy life on the road. It’s the polar opposite of being here.”
There is one particular place in Pebble Beach that holds an almost spiritual hold on him: the 7th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. “Every time I came here, I would go sit on the fence there and watch the dawn. It was a place where I felt a certain peace, a place of prayerful introspection. I still do that.”
The connection is so deep that it was here that he and Courtney held their wedding—and they had a half-scale replica of the hole—complete with pin positions from four US Opens—built in the backyard of their home. A framed photo of longtime pal Arnold Palmer teeing up on the mini-7th occupies a prominent spot in his home office. Nantz says that in his mind the tournament will always be “The Crosby.”
“I’m a sentimental guy—I make no apologies for that—and I love the history of this area,” he says. “I’ve always had an image of what it was like in Bing’s days: the elegance, the fun, the respect…and to me, the Crosby mystique is alive and well. It’s part of the reason I live here.”
Nantz comments that the early February event was in the vanguard of celebrity-driven golf events. “It helped to make the sport cool,” he says. As a sort of homage to Crosby, Nantz hosts a dinner during the tournament at legendary Cannery Row restaurant The Sardine Factory.
“It’s probably the most desired dinner invitation of the year,” says Sardine Factory co-owner Ted Balestreri, “attended by a Who’s Who of golfers and celebrities. They have a great time, telling stories and giving toasts. Jim is definitely the chairman of the board that night.”
“That dinner is an ode to the good thing that Bing brought to Pebble Beach,” Nantz says. At the tender age of 11, Nantz knew exactly where his life was going. “I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting—specifically at CBS Sports,” he recalls. “That was because they broadcast the Masters.” He was hired by CBS in 1985.
“I don’t consider myself a ‘broadcaster’ per se—I leave the casting to the fishermen. I’m a ‘sports commentator,’ a storyteller, not a statistician. And golf is an opportunity for me to do long-form storytelling.”
He excels at it, as the three Emmy awards on his mantle and legions of fans attest.
As if his CBS duties weren’t enough to occupy his time, Nantz is also in the wine business. The Calling is the brand he cocreated with Peter Deutsch of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.
“When we met, one of my first questions was, ‘Do you want to put your name on the label?’” Deutsch recalls. “He didn’t know the question was a make or break for me. If he said, ‘Yes,’ I would have passed and recommended someone else. He said, ‘No.’”
According to Deutsch, celebrity-driven wine brands do not resonate in the marketplace. “My interest is in creating the next great American wine brand,” Nantz says. So far, so good. The first vintages, launched in June, 2012, of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were cultivated in the Russian River Valley and the Cabernet Sauvignon in Alexander Valley.
“We’ve received ten scores of 90 and above,” Deutsch says, “which for a brand in its infancy is amazing.”
The wines are available in all 50 states and at over 5,000 restaurants, including Vesuvio and Dametra Cafe in Carmel, Sardine Factory in Monterey, and Pebble Beach Resorts “Our Chardonnay is the number one seller at Roy’s at Spanish Bay,” Nantz says proudly. The sportscaster doesn’t see The Calling as just a sideline, however.
“I see the company as something I can pass on to my kids,” Nantz says. And he is intimately involved in every detail. “Jim is probably one of the busiest guys on the planet, yet we speak three or four times every week,” Deutsch says. “It’s an unbelievable amount of commitment. There’s something very special about this project to him.”
Commitment is a good choice of words when talking about Jim Nantz. It’s obvious in the passion he puts into every aspect of his life, from his television work to his wine business and especially to his family.
“He’s the type of guy who makes America great,” says Balestreri. “He’s truly a man of the community. As famous as he is, he’s really a homebody when he’s here.”