Venturi had precious friendship with Byron Nelson

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 what has since become known as ”The Match.”

Peggy Nelson said that was an amazing day for the players, and

that Byron Nelson, who died in 2006 at age 94, and Venturi would

sometimes talk about different shots each of them hit that day.

She characterized their friendship as precious and talked about

what it was like ”to see Byron’s face light up whenever he thought

of him” or when Venturi would call.

”I think that if Byron could have, he would have adopted

Kenny,” Peggy Nelson said. ”Kenny’s values were so strong and so

wanting to help people as much as he could, because he knew that he

was a very blessed man in the game of golf and that he was blessed

to have so many friends like Byron and Mr. Hogan, and being close

to both of them.”

Barrow said Venturi tried to do everything Nelson taught him,

from never charging for a golf lesson ”because Byron Nelson said

don’t do that” to also checking in with the pro shop at a golf

course before playing a round.

”This was a great thing that Byron Nelson told him, always go

in and ask the pro who holds the course record. And if it’s a pro,

don’t ever break it because that pro is there every day. You’re

only there for a few days,” Barrow said. ”That’s what Venturi was

like.”