Ken Venturi died a week ago at age 82. Venturi was the voice of CBS Golf for 35 years – he retired 11 years ago.
Venturi was very much an old-school guy. He was good buddies with Frank Sinatra, and he was mentored by Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Known as a man of his word and a great guy to his family and friends, Venturi had an amazing life.
But his life wasn’t always easy – he was a tough, resilient fellow. He grew up in San Francisco and was an incredible amateur golfer. As an amateur in 1956, he lost the Masters on the last hole. As a professional, he won the US Open in 1964, and almost died of heat stroke during the last round. Because of carpal tunnel syndrome, his hands deteriorated to a point that he couldn’t play competitive golf.
So, Venturi became a golf announcer – not easy for a guy with a speech impediment. But again, Venturi powered through and became one of the best – if not the best – golf announcers/analysts of all time.
Probably his closest rival as a golf announcer/analyst is also a great golfer from the San Francisco area – Johnny Miller. Miller was also a star amateur player and a US Open champion. Miller didn’t have carpal tunnel – but his hands went crazy with the putting yips… so he turned to the announcer’s booth.
I loved listening to Venturi… and love listening to Miller. They are very different cats – but both know the game – and are honest and sincere. Miller is more of an antagonist and not beloved by the players the way that Venturi was. But Miller is a treasure – I hope he has many more miles.
Still … I miss Ken Venturi. RIP.
GM and Head Golf Professional