Golf: Former Marco resident Ken Venturi to be inducted today into World Golf Hall of Fame

Retiring CBS golf broadcaster Ken Venturi waves to Kemper Open winner Bob Estes from the broadcast booth during the final round of the Kemper Open at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md., Sunday June 2, 2002. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea)

Photo by ROBERTO BOREA, AP2002

Retiring CBS golf broadcaster Ken Venturi waves to Kemper Open winner Bob Estes from the broadcast booth during the final round of the Kemper Open at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md., Sunday June 2, 2002. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea)

Born: May 15, 1931 (81 years old), San Francisco

PGA Tour wins: 14

Major titles: 1 (1964 U.S. Open)

Broadcasting career: 35 years with CBS as golf commentator and analyst from 1968-2002

Notable: Lived on Marco Island from 1976-2002. ... Led the 1956 Masters as an amateur before a final-round 80 left him in second, a stroke behind Jack Burke Jr. Finish was best for an amateur in the history of the event. ... 1964 PGA Tour player of the year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. ... Played on 1965 U.S. Ryder Cup team. ... Gave the eulogy at fellow golf legend and Marco resident Gene Sarazen’s funeral on Marco Island in 1999. ... Captain of the winning 2000 U.S. Presidents Cup team, which routed the International team, 21 1/2-10 1/2, at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va.

Hall of Fame info: TV broadcast at 10 p.m. on the Golf Channel. ... Venturi has donated a crystal replica of the trophy for winning the 1964 U.S. Open; the clubs he used to win 10 times on the PGA Tour in the 1960s; and his jacket from his times as the lead CBS golf analyst. ... Venturi’s exhibit and lockers, and those of the other inductees will open to the public Tuesday.

Barb Klimas faithfully served as Ken Venturi’s secretary for 27 years until he moved to California in 2002. This past week, she’s returned to that role.

“I flew out here to California to help,” she said Friday night. “I’m actually sitting in his office working.

“I’m just happy to be able to help out. Things were just getting behind because he was not feeling good.” “It’s all coming back,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s like riding a bike.”

Venturi, who lived on Marco Island from 1976-2002, will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame today in St. Augustine. But last week, it was announced that the 81-year-old will not make the ceremony after having surgery for infections in his back.

“He deserves this,” Klimas said. “It’s sure taken a long time. Here it is, and doggone it, he can’t be there. We’re going to celebrate out here as much as we can.”

Jim Nantz, his longtime broadcasting colleague at CBS, was scheduled to present Venturi. Instead, Nantz has asked sons Matt and Tim Venturi to represent their father, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nantz wrote an open letter to Venturi that was posted on the Golf.com website Saturday. In part, it reads:

“What an honor it was for me, Ken, when you asked me to introduce you at your induction. We all know it should have happened years ago. After all, who has had a career like yours? Playing golf at its highest level, teaching, captaining the Presidents Cup team, all your charitable work — plus your 35-year career at CBS. Everybody in golf wishes your health were good enough right now to make that long trip from Rancho Mirage to St. Augustine for the induction. I will accept on your behalf and hand off the hardware to Matt and Tim. Your sons will be beaming, and we all know, with Kathleen at your side, you’ll have this infection thing licked in no time and you’ll attend next year’s ceremony and have your time on the stage. What a night that will be.”

HITTING THE ISLAND

Venturi and his wife Beau came to Marco Island in 1967, for the first Tony Lema Memorial Pro-Am, a celebrity-filled tournament in honor of the Island Club’s first professional. Lema, a touring professional who won the British Open in 1964, died in a private plane crash in 1966.

There they met Frank Mackle of Deltona Corp., one of the developers on the island. He invited Venturi to head up Deltona’s golf courses and work for him. The Venturis moved to Marco Island in 1976.

“Beau didn’t take but a few seconds to make up her mind,” Venturi told the Daily News in 2002. “She fell in love with it.

“It was the best of all worlds. We thought we moved into paradise.”

Klimas was working in the office, and Venturi needed some help.

“I just volunteered,” she said. “I’ve got time. I can kick out a letter.”

Barb and her husband Joe became fast friends — and longtime ones — with Venturi.

“We just hit it off,” she said. “It was just easy. We became really good friends. Joe and he hit it off. Marco Island was pretty little at the time. It was kind of a nice, homey, community feeling.”

About 15 years later, Venturi got another opportunity — Eagle Creek Country Club just west of U.S. 41 on the way to Marco. And Klimas followed him there.

In 1999, Venturi redesigned the course, and a year later, the club erected a bust and plaque in his honor near the first tee.

“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Venturi said on March 18, 2000. “You win awards and everything there is in life, but to be remembered is the most important thing.

“The greatest reward in life is to be remembered.”

REMEMBERING BEAU

Venturi’s wife died of brain cancer on July 3, 1997. Among what she was remembered for was her work with battered women as a board member for the Shelter For Abused Women of Collier County.

So nearly two years later, Venturi carried on that cause with the Beau Venturi Home Golf Outing at Eagle Creek on March 8, 1999. It was anything but just another charity golf tournament in an area filled with them.

John Cook, Champions Tour player who took instruction from Venturi on Marco Island as a youngster

"It brings tears to my eyes, it really does; it brings chills. When I found out, I called him straightaway. He had known. He had said it was so hard to keep it a secret. I kind of got word of it a little earlier than it was announced. So we chatted.

"I’m so happy for him. It really means a lot. It really means a lot to him."

Peter Jacobsen, Bonita Springs resident and Champions Tour player who also is a golf analyst for NBC Sports

"It’s the Hall of Fame. F-A-M-E. People that are famous go into the Hall of Fame. People that accomplish things go into the Hall of Fame. People get into the Hall of Fame for contributions, which makes them famous within the game, and it uplifts the game. Ken Venturi is that kind of guy."

Frank Nobilo, Golf Channel analyst

"(He’s) great for a number of reasons. Halls of Fame are for achievements both on and off the golf course. Ken’s done it from both points of view. His career would’ve been better if had he not had (carpal tunnel syndrome). ... As a stutterer, to all of a sudden go into broadcasting, he’s overcome a lot of things. He’s one of the best in the business with a mic. I have nothing but congratulations for him going in."

Mark Lye, Naples resident, former Golf Channel analyst

"I’ve known Kenny for 35 years. He went to San Jose State and I went there. I’m a San Francisco guy. He was the man back then. He had some sort of aura about him. He was a very classy guy, a very talented guy."

A total of 23 PGA Tour pros donated their time, and Nantz came over to serve as emcee. Legendary Gene Sarazen, the first to win golf’s Grand Slam, sat in a lawn chair under an umbrella on the first tee. Sarazen, 97, died two months later.

“It’s something that you’ll never see again in the Naples area,” Venturi said then. “It’s really something to behold. If you didn’t come here, you missed something special.”

Greg Norman made sure he put the moment in perspective on the first tee.

“We could play in one of these every Monday,” Norman told the crowd. “Kenny only had to ask me. (Beau was) a very special lady. It’s what Beau created why everybody’s here.

“She’s here and she’s having a great time, Kenny.”

“We do things like this, but when you think so much of a person, when he taps you on the shoulder, you say ‘Yes, tell me where and when,’” Ben Crenshaw said.

The $1 million donation from the outing was just the biggest example of Venturi’s love for charity. He was involved with Guide Eyes for the Blind in New York, the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, a home for mentally disabled in County Kerry in Ireland, and the Bill Owen charity event at Eagle Creek, just to name a few.

“And there were all of the little things that nobody knew about it,” Klimas said. “He has a huge heart.”

THE PRESIDENTS CUP

In 2000, Venturi grasped another chance to be remembered, as captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team. He hadn’t played on tour in decades, but gave golfers tips from time to time and kept in touch with the game through his TV work.

Still, he was the captain for a team that had never seen him play, and just knew him as a friendly face on the practice tee who could give TV viewers a player’s perspective the right way.

Venturi relished showing the team — which included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Paul Azinger, Notah Begay, Stewart Cink, David Duval, Jim Furyk, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Loren Roberts, Hal Sutton, and Kirk Triplett — what he was like in his playing days.

The U.S. team won 21 1/2-10 1/2 over an International team that featured Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Nick Price and Vijay Singh.

“You saw a competitive side of me that they never saw before,” Venturi told the Daily News in December 2000. “It was a throwback from years gone, my playing days. That’s the way I was when I played. I was just so focused in on it.”

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

Venturi had kept in his mind for years the thought of getting into the Hall of Fame. And he wondered if it would ever come.

Venturi was disappointed when Frank Chirkinian, his director for decades on CBS Sports golf telecasts, passed away before being inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

“It’s long overdue,” he said of Chirkinian’s induction. “ Frank should have been in there a long, long time ago. It’s a shame, you look at people in the Hall of Fame, and then you think of people who are not in there, and you wonder why.”

Champions Tour player John Cook, who still keeps notes from lessons with Venturi on Marco Island while growing up, was among many befuddled by Venturi’s omission.

“There’s nobody that’s done more than he has,” Cook said in February. “People didn’t understand that. ‘Uh, Ken Venturi, he’s a borderline hall of famer.’ Really? Borderline? Are you kidding me?”

On Oct. 8, 2012, Venturi was officially announced as an inductee in the Lifetime Achievement Category.

“The greatest reward in life is to be remembered,” he said during a conference call. “It’s the dream of a lifetime.”

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Comments » 1

lpr writes:

It's about time for a great man. He was my mentor growing up. Also, as an ex-PGA Tour wife and Production Assistant for the Tour...he did alot for golf and the CBS coverage.
Well deserved and God Bless Uncle Ken...you and Aunt Beau were a HUGE influence in my life... xoxo

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