NGCOA Remembers: Ken Venturi
Ken Venturi, who won the 1964 U.S. Open and spent 35 years in the booth for CBS Sports, passed away on May 17 at the age of 82. Venturi was the recipient of the NGCOA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Venturi, who died shortly after he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on May 6, was respected for his contributions off the course as much as he was for his achievements during an illustrious professional career.
“Ken Venturi is one of golf’s most admired and beloved personalities and one of the game’s great champions,” said Mike Hughes, CEO of the NGCOA. “This is a well-deserved tribute, and one we are proud to bestow.”
During a 10-year professional career that was cut short by injuries, Venturi won 14 times, including the 1964 U.S. Open. Venturi’s only major championship marked an inspiring comeback following an automobile accident and a three-year slump, a time when he contracted carpal tunnel syndrome.
The night before the final 36-hole finish at Congressional CC, Venturi prayed that he would be able to survive the scorching heat and regain the touch that he had in the early days of his career. “I just said, ‘Put the clubs back in my hands one more time, and I’ll find a way to give back,” Venturi recalls. His winning 278 total, accomplished only after a doctor’s examination of a dehydrated Venturi, included closing rounds of 66 and 70.
True to his word, following the end of his competitive career in 1966, Venturi began giving back to the game with his time, money and personality. For 25 years, Venturi ran the Guiding Eyes Golf Classic in New York, an event whose proceeds provided Seeing Eye dogs for the blind. He and his wife, Kathleen, have been instrumental in raising millions of dollars for the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation. Venturi also has supported the Kerry Mental Health Association in Ireland and numerous other charities.
Venturi, who was a protégé of the legendary Byron Nelson, said he once asked Nelson “how I could repay him for all he had done for me. He said, ‘Just be good to the game and give back.’ I’ve tried to do that.”
See the video from 2010 where Venturi was the recipient of the NGCOA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.