Hall of Famer Venturi connects golf's past and present

By Randall MellOctober 8, 2012, 9:00 pm

You can’t navigate through a half century of great moments in golf history without running into Ken Venturi at almost every turn.

From Hogan to Palmer to Nicklaus to Woods, Venturi was there one way or another.

If he wasn’t playing alongside these icons, he was calling the action as a TV analyst, the voice who profoundly shaped more than one generation’s understanding of the game.

That’s why it never felt right walking through the World Golf Hall of Fame without seeing an exhibit for Venturi.

That wrong was finally made right Monday in St. Augustine, Fla.

Venturi will join Fred Couples as the newest members of the World Golf Hall of Fame when the next induction ceremony is staged in May. Venturi, 81, was selected through the lifetime achievement category.

'The greatest reward in life is to be remembered, and I thank the World Golf Hall of Fame for remembering me,' Venturi said in a World Golf Hall of Fame release. 'It's the dream of a lifetime.'

Photo gallery: Ken Venturi through the years

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Venturi won 14 PGA Tour events, including the 1964 U.S. Open, his lone major championship.

“The last time I had tears in my eyes was when I won the U.S. Open,” an emotional Venturi said in a conference call after Monday's announcement.

Those who know Venturi know his failure to make it into the Hall of Fame through the regular voting process hugely disappointed him over the years.

While Venturi’s victory total fell short of Hall of Fame achievement in the minds of many voters, his career was too encompassing to be defined solely by numbers.

A giant spirit, resilience and impact were Venturi’s overriding qualifications.

Victory totals don’t measure the size of a man’s spirit, or what a champion has famously overcome. They don’t fully measure impact, either, not for a broadcaster who influenced how we remember so many of the game’s great players and great moments.

Through 50 years of golf, Venturi was a figure on the grandest stages, from his heroic march to the ’64 U.S. Open title in debilitating heat at Congressional Country Club to less heroic roles in epically blowing a chance to win the ’56 Masters as an amateur and in challenging Arnold Palmer’s drop/provisional when Venturi got beat at the ‘58 Masters.

When his playing days were over, Venturi became our narrator, the voice backstage who framed many of the game’s dramas.

How that happened is one of the sport’s most improbable tales.

If what you overcome is ultimately as meaningful as what you achieve, Venturi should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The boy who grew up with a severe stuttering problem became CBS’ lead golf analyst for 35 years, his broadcast career spanning three of Nicklaus’ Masters victories, including the Golden Bear’s dramatic win in ’86, and Woods’ breakthrough ’97 victory.

As painful as his stammering was, Venturi believes it drove him to excellence.

Growing up, he would escape on lonely retreats to San Francisco’s Harding Park, where his father ran the pro shop. With no playing partners to worry about, Venturi typically played two balls, exclusively hitting draws with one and fades with another.

His shot making developed so rapidly he attracted the attention of Eddie Lowery, a San Francisco car dealer who also happened to have been Francis Ouimet’s 10-year-old caddie when Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open. Lowery encouraged and nurtured the young Venturi, steering him to Byron Nelson, who taught and mentored him.

Developing formidably, Venturi nearly won the Masters as an amateur in ’56.

Venturi led the first three rounds of that Masters, but stumbled to a final-round 80, allowing Jackie Burke Jr. to come from eight strokes back and beat him by a single shot.

Venturi insisted that Bobby Jones was so enamored with his bid that Jones told him he would have made him chairman of his Augusta National Golf Club if Venturi had won and committed to remaining an amateur.

Later that year, though, Venturi turned pro, and he made an immediate impression. He was touted as the next Hogan.

From 1957 to ‘60, Venturi won 10 times. He looked destined for even greater triumphs, but after sustaining back and rib injuries in a car accident in ’61, he slumped severely. By the end of the ’63 season, Venturi was nearly broke. His swing was wayward and lost, and he later conceded he was drinking too much back then. He swooned so badly he did not even earn an invite to the ’64 Masters and considered buying into a restaurant and leaving the game.

With Lowery’s help, and with so much work on the range he says his fingers blistered, Venturi bounced back in the run up to the ’64 U.S. Open. He found himself and his game, creating one of the most dramatic finishes in major championship history.

Wobbled by heat exhaustion in 100-degree heat at Congressional, Venturi looked like he might not be able to finish. A doctor treated him between rounds in the 36-hole finale. By day’s end, Venturi prevailed, but he was so weary he could not pluck his golf ball out of the last hole. Raymond Floyd, who played alongside, did it for him.

“I saw him fight and scrap to win the most coveted thing in golf,” Floyd once said. “It is one of the most heroic things I have ever seen.”

Venturi would win just once more in his career. A circulatory ailment in his hands forced an early retirement, but that led to his long second career as an analyst for CBS, which wasn’t without its challenges, either. Venturi recovered from prostate cancer later in his broadcast career.

Proud, sensitive and complicated, Venturi has a fighter’s spirit. He showed that again just a few years ago in the release of his autobiography, “Getting up and down: My 60 years in golf.” He created a small tempest reiterating his belief that Palmer beat him in the ’58 Masters after incorrectly playing two balls at the 12th green, one of them a provisional in Palmer’s appeal of an unfavorable ruling over an embedded ball.

“I firmly believe that he did wrong, and he knows he did wrong,” Venturi wrote in the book.

With controversy ensuing the excerpt’s release, Venturi insisted he wasn’t accusing Palmer of cheating. He said that Palmer merely played a second ball incorrectly.

Venturi’s book, of course, explored his rich story well beyond that incident.

Whatever qualities made Venturi a welcome guest in so many homes with TVs over the years, it also made him welcome among the game’s greats.

Venturi wasn’t just a Byron Nelson pupil. He was a close friend. Venturi also became so close to Hogan, he was a pallbearer at Hogan’s funeral. They weren’t even Venturi’s most famous connections, though. Venturi called Frank Sinatra a dear friend and a former roommate.

Running with the Rat Pack isn’t Venturi’s only strong link to pop culture.

Venturi was one of the central figures in Mark Frost’s excellent book, “The Match,” which detailed a famous better-ball showdown between amateurs Venturi and Harvie Ward and pros Nelson and Hogan.

Venturi also appeared as himself in the movie, “Tin Cup.”

When Kevin Costner, as the fictional character Roy McAvoy, decides to go for it in the U.S. Open near the movie’s end, he says: “This is for Venturi up in the booth thinking I should lay up.” In response, McAvoy’s caddie, actor Cheech Marin, says: “Yeah, what does he know? He only won this tournament before you were born.”

Venturi’s fame spread beyond golf with the release of that movie. Now, with Monday’s announcement, his fame is secured in golf’s hallowed halls.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.