12 days ago I sat down to watch the 2013 World Golf Hall Of Fame inductions, mainly because my golfing idol Fred Couples was being inducted. But by the ceremony was over, I was left with an overwhelming respect and admiration for Ken Venturi, also inducted that night.
I was born in 1985, eighteen years after Mr. Venturi retired from golf. Whilst I remember him announcing golf on the US coverage of the PGA Tour, his influence was largely before my time.
However after hearing recent testimonials to Mr. Venturi, I have learnt about the incredible life and influence he had. So I decided to document 5 reasons people should know, and remember, Ken Venturi:
His 1964 US Open win
Perhaps one of the most famous and heroic achievements in golf.
Just five years into his golf career, Venturi suffered a car accident in 1961. He battled his health and his game to compete on the PGA Tour and came to the US Open in 1964 without a win over 4 years.
He found himself trailing Tommy Jacobs by 6 shots entering Saturday of the US Open. Back then, players played two rounds on Saturday to complete the US Open. The temperature at Congressional CC (Maryland) sat around 40’C throughout the day. Already weak from his health, Venturi’s body began to shut down as his game continued to sore.
After making up 4 shots in his 3rd round, Venturi was warned by doctors that he was suffering from heat-stroke and if he played on he could pass out or worse, drop dead. Venturi simply responded “I’ve got nowhere else to go” and continued on.
Using his clubs as walking sticks and taking small, methodical steps, he finished the final round, carding a 70 to win the US Open by four. So exhausted from the day, Venturi was helped off the final green and needed assistance adding up his card in the scorer’s tent.
His Surprising Broadcasting Career
As a boy, Venturi suffered severely from a stuttering problem. He often used golf as a place to get away and talk to himself or his shots. Amazingly, his 35 years working as a colour commentator on CBS Sports is still the longest stint in sports broadcasting history.
Among several high-profile celebrities Venturi called friends, was Frank Sinatra. The two become best friends and were roommates.
His Undocumented Front Nine At Augusta
Venturi took a four shot lead into the last round of the 1956 Masters. He hit 15 greens, but three-putted six times en route to an 80 that saw him lose the green jacket by a single shot.
27 years later, Venturi’s good friend Byron Nelson asked him to fill in for him as an honorary starter at the Masters. Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Venturi teed off, and decided to continue and play the front nine. Venturi made four birdies and one bogey and made the turn at 33. He turned to Sarazen and said “Gene, I want us to keep playing. I can lead this tournament.”
Sarazen seemed to agree and began walked to the 10th, before stopping and saying,“On second thought, to hell with it. You can’t lead anything, Venturi. Let’s get some lunch.”
Venturi duly respected Sarazen’s suggestion and followed his lead, all the way to the clubhouse.
On his last day at CBS Sports in 2002, Venturi stood in the tower over the 18th and signed off by saying, “The greatest reward in life, is to be remembered. Thank you for remembering me.”