Born: May 15, 1931
Died: May 17, 2013
Height: 6 ft
Birthplace: San Francisco
College: San Jose State
Turned Pro: 1956
Ken Venturi was one of the most recognized personalities in golf following this 35-year run as lead golf analyst at CBS Sports. What fans of younger generations may not remember is that Venturi was an outstanding golfer in his own right.
Venturi grew up in San Francisco and his father ran the pro shop at Harding Park, one of the most historic public courses in the country. Venturi was a fine amateur player, winning the California State Amateur in 1951 and 1956. In between wins, Venturi served in the United States Army in both Korea and Europe.
Venturi turned pro at the end of 1956. He contended for the Masters in both 1958 and 1960 before losing to Arnold Palmer both years. Venturi nearly won the Masters in 1956 as an amateur leading after the first, second and third round. A final round 80 cost him the Green Jacket by a single shot to Jack Burke Jr.
Venturi won multiple times on tour from 1957 to 1960. An automobile accident in 1961 affected Venturi’s golf swing and he endured a three-year slump. His game returned to form in 1964.
At Congressional Country Club that year, Venturi was finally able to capture the Major championship that eluded him. Before he got to Congressional for that 1964 U.S. Open, Venturi advanced through two rounds of sectional qualifying. Then, in the sweltering heat of summer, Venturi survived 100 degree temperatures and a 36-hole round on Saturday to capture the championship by four shots. Doctors gave him and some other players ice cubes, ice tea and salt tablets during the round and for a while, there was serious concern as to whether or not he would be able to continue.
His playing partner for that final round, Raymond Floyd, told the AP that Venturi’s performance was “one of the most historic things I’ve ever seen.”
It was Venturi’s last real hurrah as a player. A carpel tunnel diagnosis in 1965 led to his eventual retirement in 1967. Venturi passed away at age 82 in 2013.