AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) — Verne Lundquist knew he had to join in the fun as soon as he got the call. Not only to spend time with his friends, many of whom he recalls from his time at Austin High School, but also to contribute to the preservation of a key greenspace in the heart of one of the country’s hottest housing markets.
That’s why Lundquist, the 81-year-old sportscaster, was among the numerous celebrities who attended Imagine Muny, a Texas-sized event at the Moody Theater made famous by the TV show Austin City Limits, on Sunday night. The event, which raised over $800,000 to assist rebuild Lions Municipal Golf Course, was a resounding success in terms of funding, but perhaps even more important was the increased visibility it brought to a decades-old problem.
The 141 acres on which Muny rests are immensely precious, for those who haven’t heard the background. The city of Austin has held stakeholder meetings to solicit public feedback on the area’s zoning, and boyhood friends Ben Crenshaw and Scott Sayers formed the Muny Conservancy in the hopes of purchasing the land for a reasonable price and preserving it for future generations.
The area is part of the Brackenridge Tract, a 500-acre piece of land held by the University of Texas that is regarded the first fully desegregated municipal course south of the Mason-Dixon line. Since 1936, the city has leased 140 acres to Muny for $500,000 per year. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the university may be free to lease, develop, or sell the property to another party.
However, the show’s outpouring of support – which included visits from singers Eric Church, Lukas Nelson, and Asleep at the Wheel, as well as a surprise visit from Jimmie Vaughan – may help to sway public opinion. Luke Wilson and Kyle Chandler were among those who took part in a unique video presentation. Former PGA Tour pro Mark Brooks and former TCU head football coach and Texas special assistant Gary Patterson were among the sports personalities in attendance.
“Take a look at this situation. While musical performances rotated on the famous theater’s stage, Lundquist remarked, “You get a sense of what this golf course, this magnificent setting, represents to so many people in this city.”
Lundquist, whose legendary Masters calls include Jack Nicklaus’ winning birdie putt on 17 in 1986 and Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip-in birdie on the 16th hole in 2005, admits he doesn’t get around as well as he once did. The national broadcaster resides in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but he and his wife, Nancy, bought a tiny condo in Austin three years ago, and he visits his hometown for at least a few months every year.
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“I’ve known Scott Sayers and Ben Crenshaw for longer than they want me to acknowledge,” Lundquist added, noting that Crenshaw’s sister was a year behind him in high school. “We want to be here to support this site whenever we come back.” It’s a fantastic project. It truly is.”
Sayers, who assisted in the planning of the event, described it as a huge success on numerous levels.
“The musical guests and the conclusion were as wonderful as anything I’ve ever seen,” Sayers stated. “And we were able to do what we needed to do financially to be able to improve Muny, which was critical.” But awareness is crucial; we need people from both the city and the university to understand that this isn’t only for a tiny group of people or a few people who are interested. This is a gathering spot for the entire neighborhood. This, I believe, has demonstrated that.”
Before the university makes any choices on potential permanent uses for the land, the conservancy aims to work with the city to keep Muny in the best possible condition. With the support of the city, the course recently received a fleet of 62 new golf carts, as well as a new roof for the clubhouse. More restorations and enhancements will be made possible thanks to the funds raised during Imagine Muny.
However, the final decision is still pending. The university and the city are still in talks, and Sayers admits there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“This is, without a doubt, a key stretch,” he remarked. “All we want is that whatever happens, we retain all 141 acres as greenspace.” Renovations will take time but will be worthwhile if the conservancy gets its act together, which we hope will happen. It’s a place that holds far too much significance for so many individuals.”