To one generation, Venturi is best known for the major he won as well as the major he didn't. To later ones, he was the voice of golf for decades. In recent years, Venturi had suffered from numerous health problems, including prostate cancer in 2000, quintuple bypass surgery in 2006, and heart issues in 2011. He had spent the last few weeks in the hospital in Southern California, and developed infections in his back and intestine as well as pneumonia. His son Matt revealed the news of his father's death.
Venturi won the U.S. Open at Congressional in triple-digit heat; at that time, the final of the U.S. Open featured 36 holes of golf. Venturi was advised to quit, but did not, proceeding onward through dizziness and heatstroke. That year, he won Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year and the PGA Player of the Year honors.
[Related photos: Ken Venturi through the years]
That would be the only major that Venturi would win, though he came close to defeating Arnold Palmer at the Masters in 1958. Trailing Venturi by a stroke, Palmer's tee shot on 12 embedded behind the green. Palmer was denied a free drop, and played a provisional ball. He scored a par with the provisional and a double bogey with the original one. There was controversy about whether Palmer properly declared which one he would play, but Venturi would later indicate that did not believe Palmer cheated, but rather interpreted the rules differently than Venturi did. Palmer went on to win the tournament by a stroke over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins. Venturi wound up in a tie for fourth, two strokes back.
Problems with carpal tunnel syndrome would force Venturi to retire shortly after his U.S. Open victory. He would ascend to the broadcast booth, where his voice became a signature of CBS's golf broadcasts. He would comment on golf for 35 years, the longest such broadcasting streak in any sport. He finally retired from the booth in 2002.
Venturi was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this month, but was unable to attend due to health reasons. Here is Jim Nantz's tribute to Venturi, including the story of that fabled U.S. Open:
"The greatest reward in life," Venturi once said, "is to be remembered. Thank you for remembering me."
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- Arnold Palmer