Friends remember Ken Venturi'He was a very good friend and a good friend to Marco and Collier County'Dick Shanahan

Jason Easterly/File photo
Ken Venturi, former U.S. Open winner and longtime CBS Sports golf analyst, talks with friend Greg Orlen at Eagle Creek Country Club. Venturi,  a former Marco Island resident, was in town as part of the Bill Owen Golf Classic charity tournament.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY

Jason Easterly/File photo Ken Venturi, former U.S. Open winner and longtime CBS Sports golf analyst, talks with friend Greg Orlen at Eagle Creek Country Club. Venturi, a former Marco Island resident, was in town as part of the Bill Owen Golf Classic charity tournament.

Roger LaLonde Staff 
 Former pro golfer and analyst Ken Venturi, center, celebrates with the winning low gross team that won the Ken Venturi Cup at the Bill Owen Classic in 2009. From left, Tom Rourke, Dick Shanahan, Dean Webb and Allan Cooper.  Venturi was one of the founders of the event to support area high school golf.  Although unable to attend, Venturi was inducted into  the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine on Monday. Roger LaLonde/Staff

Photo by ROGER LALONDE

Roger LaLonde Staff Former pro golfer and analyst Ken Venturi, center, celebrates with the winning low gross team that won the Ken Venturi Cup at the Bill Owen Classic in 2009. From left, Tom Rourke, Dick Shanahan, Dean Webb and Allan Cooper. Venturi was one of the founders of the event to support area high school golf. Although unable to attend, Venturi was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine on Monday. Roger LaLonde/Staff

File-This June 2, 2011 file photo shows 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.  The former U.S. Open champion has died just 12 days after he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was 82. His son, Matt Venturi, says he died Friday May 17, 2013 in a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Venturi had been hospitalized the last two months for a spinal infection, pneumonia and an intestinal infection.  (AP Photo/Roberto Borea,File)

Photo by ROBERTO BOREA

File-This June 2, 2011 file photo shows 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. The former U.S. Open champion has died just 12 days after he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was 82. His son, Matt Venturi, says he died Friday May 17, 2013 in a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Venturi had been hospitalized the last two months for a spinal infection, pneumonia and an intestinal infection. (AP Photo/Roberto Borea,File)

AP Photo/File
This June 20, 1964 file photo shows Ken Venturi smiling after winning the U.S. Open golf championship at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

AP Photo/File This June 20, 1964 file photo shows Ken Venturi smiling after winning the U.S. Open golf championship at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

Ken Venturi makes the final putt on the 18th green to win the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Congressional Country Club course in Bethesda, Md., in 1964, despite suffering from severe dehydration and exhaustion due to the 100-degree heat. Although unable to attend, Venturi was inducted into the Venturi was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine on Monday.

Photo by Associated Press

Ken Venturi makes the final putt on the 18th green to win the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Congressional Country Club course in Bethesda, Md., in 1964, despite suffering from severe dehydration and exhaustion due to the 100-degree heat. Although unable to attend, Venturi was inducted into the Venturi was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine on Monday.

“It was a blessing,” said Klimas, who was Venturi’s assistant for 26 years before he moved to California in 2002. “He was so sick. He really was sick at the end, and it just wasn’t working.”

Klimas had traveled to California two weeks ago when she learned that Venturi was too sick to make it to his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“I was out there 17 days,” said Klimas, who returned to Naples where her late husband, Joe, also a good friend of Venturi’s, was being honored at the Great Dock Canoe Race on May 11.

Klimas talked to Venturi’s wife, Kathleen, and his sons Matt and Tim on Friday.

“They all just feel it was a blessing at this point,” she said. “Nobody wants anyone to suffer.”

Venturi was in intensive care when the induction ceremony was going on. Klimas was with Venturi’s wife in the room, and doctors did not want to tell Venturi that the ceremony was on because it might make him feel worse.

“We sat with him and talked with him,” Klimas said. “We celebrated without him knowing we were celebrating.”

Venturi brought so much to Marco Island from 1976 to 2002. Dick Shanahan of Marco Island lauded Venturi’s efforts locally.

“He was an active member of the San Marco Catholic Church for more than 25 years,” Shanahan said. “He made significant contributions to the overall benefit of the church. He was a guy that everyone respected.”

Shanahan spoke of Venturi’s involvement in Marco becoming a city.

“He was part of the (cityhood) committee, making significant effort for its passage and using his name to promote it,” Shanahan said. “He was a very good friend and a good friend to Marco and Collier County.”

Tom Shea of Marco Island said Venturi and golf legend Gene Sarazen were honorary cochairmen for the successful cityhood campaign in 1997.

“Ken was involved in everything,” Shea said. “They both worked hard, not just using their names. Ken contributed a lot of good ideas.

“He certainly was a goof friend. He was quite a guy.”

Mike Ward, owner of Erin’s Isle Irish Pub, remembers Venturi when the two were part of the original group that started a simple golf outing that became the Bill Owen Classic. It raised more than $1 million for high school golf programs and other charities over 21 years.

The first year it was called the Erin’s Isle Tournament, with a handful of players, raising around $500, Ward said.

“Ken was the one who pushed for us to get a 501(c)(3) charitable designation,” Ward said. “When Bill Owen passed away in 1995 it was Ken who suggested the tournament be named after Bill because he also was one of the early supporters.”

Ward spoke of how Venturi brought so much to Collier County when it came to charities.

“It was just amazing how much he did with San Marco Catholic Church, the Beau Venturi Home, he was just incredible,” Ward said.

“We lost a great friend. We’ll miss him, I am telling you that.”

Irv Sherwood became president of the Southwest Florida Golf Charities, the 501(c)(3) suggested by Venturi, in 1997.

“Ken was a major factor in making the Bill Owen Classic a success,” Sherwood said. “He came to most of the tournaments, and everyone came out to see Ken.

“His death is a big loss to golf, not only as good player, but even a better broadcaster where he cut his niche through his longtime relationship with Pat Summerall and Jim Nantz. Ken was a true gentleman.”

David McQuade was the head professional from 1996-2002 at Eagle Creek Country Club, where Venturi was the professional emeritus and had redesigned the course.

“He was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met,” said McQuade, who has been at Collier’s Reserve since leaving Eagle Creek. “He always had time for us. We became great friends. He couldn’t do enough for you. You could sit there and listen to the guy tell stories. It was from another era, another age.”

In 1999, two years after his wife Beau died of brain cancer, Venturi wanted to put together a fundraiser for the Shelter for Abused Women and Children of Collier County. She had been on the board. So Venturi made a few calls.

When it was all said and done, over 20 touring pros including Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Price and dozens more were playing in the pro-am, and none other than Gene Sarazen, the Marco Island resident who had been the first to win the modern Grand Slam, was sitting under an umbrella on the first tee. Some area junior golfers also had been chosen to play in the pro-am. Kris Tamulis, a Naples High grad who now is on the LPGA Tour, was one of them.

“It was just an awesome event,” Tamulis said Friday. “I played with Jerry Pate. I think my team won. I have a really nice piece of Waterford crystal. What a way to honor his wife. What a classy guy. He was a legend, and I definitely know he’s going to be missed by everybody.”

The event, which was emceed by CBS Sports golf announcer Jim Nantz, raised $1 million.

The next year, a bust of Venturi and a plaque was dedicated on the first tee at Eagle Creek.

“Venturi’s heart was at Eagle Creek,” McQuade said.

Staff writer Roger LaLonde contributed to this article.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features