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PROUD WORDS
Michael Bamberger
June 09, 1997
Ken Venturi, the 1964 Open champion, has faced life's ups and downs by following his father's commandments
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June 09, 1997

Proud Words

Ken Venturi, the 1964 Open champion, has faced life's ups and downs by following his father's commandments

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An entire generation of golf fans know Venturi only as a voice on television. He has worked for CBS since 1968. Venturi the announcer is familiar and predictable, and he has many admirers. But his thoughts often begin on one subject, the speed at which Greg Norman turns his hips, for instance, and end on an unrelated one, such as the balance in Tiger Woods's finishing position. Usually, there's a link somewhere, but following Venturi's TV sentences can be a challenge.

This tendency to wander is likely the residue of Venturi's severe childhood stammer, which still shows up occasionally. A stammerer, after all, is always in recovery, like the alcoholic who doesn't drink anymore. Some stammerers become so worried that they won't be able to get out all their words and ideas that they become stuck on a single word. A recovering stammerer like Venturi can struggle with the flow of an entire spoken paragraph.

Venturi knows his thoughts don't always hold together, but he does not lament his condition. Instead, he says, during his three decades in the broadcast booth he has tried to improve and to be an inspiration to the hundreds of stammerers he has counseled over the years.

Son, you have made me very proud.

Venturi's wife is dying. It is not a secret. He hates being on the road these days, away from her. He's supposed to be at Congressional for the week of the Open, to make some speeches. He's thrilled at the thought of the attention, but he wants to be at home. When his father died, Venturi was at his bedside, and he heard his father say the seven words above that Venturi says "made my whole life."

And now the love of Ken Venturi's life is facing her end, with courage and faith, embraced by love. "My Beau is my world," Venturi says. He first laid eyes on her in 1963, when she was a hostess at a Palm Springs restaurant. She was wearing a red dress. They didn't speak until 1968. They were married in 1972. Their 25 years together have been, Venturi says, the best of his life. "It shouldn't be happening to her," he says. "It's not fair. I wish it were me instead." It's late at night. The house is still. "That's what I wish."

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