Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Golf world mourns death of Venturi

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IRVING, Texas -- Ken Venturi was a 14-year-old with a camera trying to get a picture of Byron Nelson when he first met the golfer who would become a mentor and dear friend.

"He was, like, getting under the ropes a little bit," Nelson's widow, Peggy, recalled Saturday of that moment during the 1946 San Francisco Open. "Byron said, 'Kid, could you move back under the ropes a little ways?' And Ken goes home and tells his mom, I met the greatest man today, Byron Nelson, and he spoke to me."

Venturi died Friday, in the middle of tournament week for the Byron Nelson Championship.

Venturi overcame dehydration to win the 1964 U.S. Open and spent 35 years in the booth for CBS Sports. He died at age 82, 11 days after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

When CBS came on the air Saturday for third-round coverage of the Nelson, the first 15 minutes of the broadcast were a tribute to Venturi, who retired as the network's lead golf analyst in 2002.

Jim Nantz, whose 54th birthday was on the same day his longtime partner and friend died, said it was "not going to be easy" to broadcast this weekend.

The death of Venturi came a month and a day after broadcaster Pat Summerall died, also at age 82.

"It's been an unbelievable month to lose guys like that," said Lance Barrow, the longtime CBS producer for golf and NFL broadcasts. "It's a sad day."

Barrow likened Venturi's lengthy career as a broadcaster to Nelson's surely unmatchable record of 11 consecutive tournaments won.

"There will be no one ever in sports television again that will have the run that Ken Venturi had," Barrow said. "And will not come close to it, as an analyst in any sport, much less golf."

Tiger Woods issued a statement Saturday saying that Venturi's recent Hall of Fame induction was a "fitting tribute to a special person in our game."

"He was a good man and the voice of golf for so many years," said Woods, who isn't playing the Nelson this week. "He will be remembered for what he did on the golf course and for his personality in the broadcast booth."

Ten years after Venturi was trying to get a picture of Nelson, he was a top amateur teamed with Harvie Ward against Nelson and Ben Hogan in a famous battle that has since become known as "The Match."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2013 B11

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