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Original Issue


A fallen idol who endured three years of dark despair finds the sun again with 1964's most dramatic victory

Just a bit before 6:30 on a steamy Saturday afternoon last June, Ken Venturi, the golfer, was on the verge of winning the most prestigious event in his profession, the USGA Open Championship. At this climactic moment in his life, he was utterly exhausted. He was exhausted by the 35 holes of golf he had already played that day in the stygian heat of the Potomac Valley, and he was even more exhausted—yet buoyed, too—by the emotion of a personal victory over himself.

As he walked down the 18th fairway of Washington, D.C.'s Congressional Country Club on legs that the 100° heat had turned to taffy, his eyes downcast and his feet as dead as stones, he heard the voice of Joseph C. Dey Jr., a USGA official who was at his side. "Hold your head up, Ken," said Dey gently. "You're a champion now." Suddenly aware of himself and his setting, Venturi removed the white linen cap that has been his sartorial trademark during his eight years as a professional golfer. He raised his eyes to the scoreboard beyond the green and to the clubhouse on the hill above it. Dimly, as though through a wall of cotton, he could hear the soaring applause of the gallery that lined the fairway six deep on either side. After more than three years of humiliation and defeat, Ken Venturi had come back, and in a setting that was dripping with melodrama.

From a theatrical standpoint, there was nothing in sports in the year 1964 to equal the return of Ken Venturi, yet that is not why the editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED have chosen him Sportsman of the Year. He has been selected because his is the cruel, the ugly and eventually the inspiring story of a defeated man who refused to accept failure. It is the story of a proud and even arrogant man who had to beg to get into tournaments that he once had been begged to play in; a man whose best friend once told him to go home and learn the meaning of the word humble. It is the story of a man who found faith, particularly in himself—and of a priest who helped him.

It would be no more possible to pinpoint the beginning of Venturi's comeback than to capture a moment called now. In 1960 he was the second biggest money winner on the tournament circuit. He won the Crosby in January and was sitting in the clubhouse at Augusta in April, the apparent winner of the Masters, when Arnold Palmer birdied the last two holes to take it away from him. In August he won the Milwaukee Open, the 10th tournament victory of his young career, giving him $41,230 in earnings for the year—enough, he thought, to justify a few relaxing autumn months in his pleasant California home. It was to be almost four years before he won again, years in which his talent, his poise and his stability slipped away.

By 1963, Venturi was unwanted at big tournaments. The little ones would take him because his name looked good in the local Gazette and promoters knew a few people would still pay to see him—largely to whisper behind their hands, like the morbid onlookers at an accident. When he showed up at the registration desk to sign in for the Sahara Invitational in Las Vegas, an official told him he was not invited. Humiliated, he returned to his hotel to pack. Only through the intervention of three old friends—the Hebert brothers and Gardner Dickinson—did the tournament officials relent.

"What Kenny went through in those years," a friend said recently, "was like a millionaire going broke." There were times when he had no idea where the ball was headed when he hit it. A shot on the 13th hole at St. Petersburg traveled more than 200 yards out of bounds. At Augusta people kept asking him what had happened to his swing. Baffled and resentful, he said he wanted to swing that way. At the Colonial National Invitation in Fort Worth he was so discouraged by a first-round 80 that he deliberately turned in an incorrect scorecard to get himself disqualified. He often went back to his motel room to stare at the walls or gaze blankly at television, even when visitors were there. "Ken's flaky," people said, and they were right. But Venturi did not complain, either to the press or to his fellow pros. The latter understood his misery, and many who had never wished him a moment's good became his biggest boosters. "I'll never forget," says Dave Marr, "how he sat with us all through dinner one night after missing the cut at a tournament, and he never once talked about a shot or mentioned his bad luck. That was real class."

"I'd rather have gone 15 rounds with Marciano than play a round of tournament golf," Venturi now concedes, "but I kept going. I had to. I was losing my qualifying exemptions, and I had made it a rule that I would not go out and try to qualify for a tournament along with the ghosts of the pro tour. I began to realize how important a major championship is. Just one major championship would have been worth all 10 of my tour championships."

In 1962 Venturi won $6,951 and finished 66th on the money list, and 1963 was even worse: his official winnings were $3,848. There were many days that year when he stood 10 hours on the practice tee, not even stopping for lunch. His childhood stammer—which his mother thinks is the result of switching him from left- to right-handed—grew worse. She says she could detect his chin twitching frequently, a sure sign of nervous tension in Ken. He went to doctors and, ultimately, to a hypnotist, but nothing helped.

"I kept hitting balls until my hands were blistered, kept practicing, and toward the end of 1963 I began feeling pretty good about the way I was playing," Ken recalls. "I told Conni in December that we had just enough money to carry me through one more year on the tour. My contract with U.S. Royal still had a year to go, and with my savings and what I could borrow I could just make it. If I failed, I would have to find another business, and I asked Bill Varni if there was a chance I might buy into his restaurant, the Owl 'n' Turtle, in downtown San Francisco. He told me, 'You don't want half this restaurant; 1964 is going to be your year.' "

By the first of this year Venturi's game was improving in a spectacular way. At his home club, the respectable old California Golf Club on the southern outskirts of San Francisco, he was hitting hundreds of practice shots within inches of one another. He was full of confidence—and he was trying to forget the other times in the past three years that he had also been full of confidence.

Disaster struck almost at once. His first 1964 tournament was the Los Angeles Open, and he missed the cut. As if that were not enough, he received a phone call from Jantzen, Inc. during the tournament informing him his contract to endorse the company's swimsuits and sweaters was terminated, a contract that had been quite lucrative to him. He missed the cut again two weeks later at the Crosby and again at Palm Springs. "I knew it wasn't physical," he says. "It was just that when I had to hit an important shot I was backing away from it, I was scared of it. I went home to practice some more, and I told Conni then: 'It's mental.' Then I returned to the tour, and in March at Pensacola, I won $1,100. It was my first four-figure check in two years.

"Even so, I backed off a few times when I had a big shot. I was frightened, but it wasn't as bad as before. The next week I missed the cut at St. Petersburg, and the week after that I had to plead for an invitation to Doral. They finally let me play. I won $950 and, believe me, I really needed that money. When I left Doral, I went up to Crystal River, Fla., where there is a country club I was still representing on the tour, and waited for my invitation to the Masters. While I was there I found out that Dave Marr and Phil Rodgers had been invited, and I knew there had been only two invitations left. I was not being asked to the Masters. That was the killer. I had almost won the Masters as an amateur in 1956. I nearly had it won again in 1960. I had believed I would always be invited to the Masters. 'This is the bottom of the bottom of the barrel,' I thought. Another quarter of an inch lower and I would be out in the dirt."

Still, Venturi did not give up. Back home, he was playing a round one day with Ed Lowery, a local Lincoln-Mercury dealer who has been a kind of 16th century patron to Venturi's golf ever since young Ken won the San Francisco city championship at the age of 17. On two occasions that day Venturi hit fairway woods better than he had in years. Lowery said nothing at the time but took him out to the 5th hole for some practice afterwards. He told Venturi to hit medium iron shots at a rake in the middle of a bunker well down the fairway. Three out of the six shots struck the rake, and the others missed by inches. Lowery then put a driver in Ken's hands and told him to swing exactly as he had when he hit the six-iron. Two faultless shots left the club and traveled 15 yards farther than Ken had been driving the ball for a long time.

These shots enabled Lowery to prove to Venturi once and for all what he had been doing wrong: he had been aiming his hips to the left to get a draw that would give him more distance, while keeping his shoulders aimed to the right to try and prevent a real hook. This had been an idea of his own, one that he had started to work on in 1960 when the specter of Palmer and Arnie's long drives began to bother him. Ken, convinced by what Lowery had demonstrated for him, began positioning himself squarely to the ball when he was set to drive, just as he had done in the days of his many victories.

A week later he went to Fort Worth to play in the Colonial National Invitation and found himself paired with Ben Hogan. Taciturn as always, Hogan spoke scarcely a word to Venturi until the end of their third round together. What he said then was brief: "Ken, what happened to your hook?" For Hogan, that was an oration on the change in Ken's style.

From then on, all Venturi needed was the courage to hit the ball properly under pressure, to "try not to steer it." He set his sights on the $100,000 Thunderbird Classic in the first week of June. Once again it was a matter of begging his way in. "It was awful," he remembers. "The week before I had played at Indianapolis and I missed the cut by one stroke. Missing the cut meant I wasn't automatically eligible for the Thunderbird.

"That night I called Bill Jennings, the Thunderbird general chairman, to ask if he could help me get an invitation to the tournament. I knew there was one spot still open, and I told him, 'Bill, I really need this. I really believe I'm ready. If I go home now, I'll never be back on the tour. You've got to help me.' The year before at the Thunderbird I shot an 80 on the first round and got disgusted and left, so they certainly didn't owe me anything. I was scared to death they wouldn't let me in. Jennings said he would see what he could do and would call me back the next morning. I didn't sleep at all that night. The next day Bill called and said I was getting the last invitation.

"Well, on the final round I was in a position to win the tournament, and when I got to the par-3 16th on Sunday I knew that if I parred in I would finish at least third and pick up a big check. I thought about Conni, and I thought about the money and how badly we needed it. I could play the shot safe with a four-iron and make a sure bogey, or I could go for the pin with a three-iron and maybe make a birdie, but if I didn't hit it right it was going to cost me a lot of money. I said to myself, 'If you back off now, you'll back off the rest of your life.' So I took the three-iron and hit a great shot to the green and two-putted for my par. Then I birdied the 17th and almost birdied the 18th and finished in a tie for third with Casper.

"As soon as I could get to a phone, I called Conni and said I'd won $6,250. We both sat on the phone and cried. We couldn't even talk."

If you look back on the life of Ken Venturi—back through the long string of good years—you see a man who never could have dreamed that he would find himself crying with joy over a third-place finish; he had too much promise, too glorious a future for that. Yet you also see a man whose whole adult life has been punctuated by controversy and drama. He attracts these things, as some men attract violence or wealth or loyalty. It is odd that this should be so, for Venturi's life has had all the outward fixtures of success. He is a handsome man of 33 with thick, wavy dark hair that is beginning to be salted with gray. His 6-foot frame carries 170 pounds of springy muscle. He has a wife whom other men view with envy. Conni, at the age of 30, is tall and striking, stylish and friendly. They have been married for 10 years, and she has borne him two handsome sons—Matthew, 8, and towheaded Timmy, who is 5. They live in a comfortable California ranch house on a wooded hillside in Hillsborough, the most expensive and exclusive suburb of San Francisco. Their cars are a Lincoln Continental convertible and a Mercury station wagon. They have friends galore in the San Francisco area, many of them in show business. And—once he got started as a golfer—none of this was earned with difficulty, at least in terms of man's usual struggle for success.

Yet, like almost anyone who has risen to the top of his profession, Venturi worked terribly hard to get there. His early life was the very antithesis of the one he now leads. His father, Fred Venturi, worked for a ship chandler's firm on the San Francisco Embarcadero until, at 45, he quit his job to take over the pro shop at the municipally owned Harding Park golf course. By the time he was 17, Ken was playing in national junior tournaments and working at golf. He arranged his high school classes so he could finish early enough to have a full afternoon of practice at Harding Park. He usually arrived at the golf course by 2:30 and practiced steadily until 5:30. He got home just in time for supper at 6, then went to Shaw's Ice Cream Parlor, where he served ice cream until 9:30. Saturday mornings he mowed lawns to earn another $15 a month, and at the golf course he washed cars in the parking lot for extra cash. "I was always very frugal," he recalls with pride. "I always seemed to have a lot of jobs." Then he won the San Francisco City Golf Championship, a major event on the sports calendar in that city of enthusiastic golfers. He was the youngest player by many years ever to win the tournament.

"I really didn't hit the ball very well in those days," Venturi will now admit. "I had a bad grip, and there were a lot of things wrong with my swing, but I was a great chipper and putter. Like all kids, I didn't know what it meant to be afraid of a putt."

He went to college at San Jose State, where he earned his way by sweeping out classrooms, waited on tables in a sorority house and passed sandwiches in the press box during football games. And he kept playing lots of golf.

There was, by now, a new force at work in his life—Lowery. Lowery collected topnotch golfers the way Barbara Hutton has collected titles. He was an excellent amateur golfer in his own right, and he liked to play where the scores were low and the stakes were high. He and Venturi began to play regularly, and Venturi for the first time learned about pressure. "I got used to being where a lot of money was riding," he recalls, "and I didn't get scared off by it. I probably never had more than $10 or $20 of my own on a match, but for me that was blood, and I knew that Lowery was going with me for a lot more, sometimes $600 or $700. We used to have some real matches in those days. I remember once one of our opponents shot a 65 and lost every bet."

In the summer of 1952, Lowery introduced Venturi to Byron Nelson, another man who was to have a profound effect on Ken's career. They played a round in San Francisco, and Venturi shot a 66. "I was kind of cocky, figuring I had really produced for someone I wanted to show off for," Ken says now, "and I thought to myself, 'There's not much he can help me with!' When we got in I said, 'Well, Mr. Nelson, what do you think?' "

"I'll meet you out here tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock," Nelson replied. "There are seven or eight things you should correct."

Nelson made basic and necessary changes in Venturi's game, helping Ken develop the rhythmical swing that came to be considered as classically perfect as Hogan's. Venturi soon started moving up in the amateur golf ranks, and the years of controversy began. It was charged that Lowery's influence—and that alone—got him on the 1952 Americas Cup team and the 1953 Walker Cup team. In January of 1954 he was drafted into the Army. His assignments had a way of being close to golf courses, and this, too, attracted attention and criticism. He was eventually sent to Austria, possibly to quiet some of the talk, and he returned at the end of 1955. He was now only 24 years old, and his career had hardly begun. He went back to practicing under Nelson's eye, and in early 1956 he received an invitation to the Masters through a vote of the former Masters champions. From that moment on, he was destined to be a figure of national prominence. This was the famous Masters that Venturi led for three days. It was an informal Masters tradition then that the fourth-round leader would play with Byron Nelson, and that is how everyone assumed the pairings would read when they were posted over the mantelpiece in the Augusta clubhouse on Sunday morning. But when the large white sheet went up, Sam Snead's name was beside Ken Venturi's. Cliff Roberts and Bob Jones, who run the tournament, had felt it would cast a shadow on Ken's victory if he were to play the final round with the man who had been his tutor. Ken shot an 80, and he lost the Masters by a stroke.

He flew back to San Francisco that night and found the press waiting for him when he disembarked. During the ensuing interview, Venturi unburdened his frustrations with a number of statements that could well have been left unsaid—or even unthought. Some San Francisco golf writers who had long felt that Venturi was too proud of Venturi put his observations in the worst possible light. "It wasn't that I didn't say what they wrote," Ken laments even today. "It's that things were not quoted completely." The gist of the story on the sports pages from coast to coast was that Venturi felt he had been unfairly treated by the tournament committee. The net effect was to make Venturi look like a crybaby, and this impression remained in a great many minds for years. At the same time the feeling grew that Venturi was aloof, self-centered and intolerant.

"I don't think I'm that way at all," he explains now. "I admit I'm a loner at heart, and what I do I have to do by myself. When I'm on the golf course I have to think about what's ahead, what kind of shot I'm going to play next. I find the only way I can be relaxed is to keep my mind completely on the game. When I talk to people I lose my concentration, and then if I hit a bad shot or a stupid shot I get mad at myself and lose my composure. Other people, like Mike Souchak, relax when they have someone to talk to or by going over and saying hello to someone in the gallery. I just can't do that. If I see someone in the gallery and just barely nod to them, people think I'm being standoffish or something, but actually a slight nod from me is like Mike going over and giving them a big slap on the back."

In September of 1956, Venturi—now working as a golfing auto salesman for Lowery—lost a third-round match in the U.S. Amateur Championship to Bob Roos. Roos was a wealthy San Francisco clothing-store executive who belonged to the Lowery golfing clique, and Venturi had played with him hundreds of times in the past. "After Roos beat me," Ken recalls, "I went home and began to think to myself, if I can give Bob Roos two strokes a side and beat him every time we play and then lose to him in the National Amateur, then I could go the rest of my life and never win the Amateur. I thought, 'What the hell am I doing?' My life was neither one thing nor the other. When I was working all day I wasn't practicing golf, and when I was practicing golf I wasn't selling cars." Lowery finally forced the situation to a climax by offering to make Venturi a gift of a company, Lake Merced Motors.

"I can't do that, Ed," Venturi told him.

"What are you going to do?" Lowery asked.

"I'm going to turn pro," Venturi replied, surprising himself by the suddenness of his decision. "I knew by then how tough being a touring pro was, that it can be Heartbreak Hill," Venturi says. "But I was determined to test myself."

The testing was fast, and the harvest was lush. In the U.S. Open of 1957 he finished in a tie for sixth and won $840. For eight straight weeks after that he made money. At St. Paul he was 22 under par for four rounds, winning the tournament and its $2,800 purse. The next week he was 13 under par for four rounds in Milwaukee, and he won again. Another $6,000 went in the bank. When he headed for home he had won more than $18,000.

The next year, 1958, was even better, with four victories; 1959, with only two wins, was a slight recession, and 1960 was the most lucrative year of all, one that would have included the long-awaited Masters victory but for Palmer's eerie finish. "Another Byron Nelson. The next Ben Hogan. Better than Sam Snead," the papers said. Ken was tuned in but thinks he was not seriously affected. "I tried not to let what people wrote impress me," he says.

Ed Lowery remembers it differently. "The changes were not for the better," says Lowery. "Kenny had tremendous success, but he was not able to handle it. I had people come up to me and say, 'Ed, you're a friend of mine, and I know how you feel about Venturi, but I hope the s.o.b. shoots 100.'

"Kenny thought he knew all the answers, that he knew more golf than anyone else around. He might even have resented the fact that everyone said he was the creation of Byron Nelson. I don't know. Anyway, Kenny decided he had to lengthen his tee shot, so he took a more closed position. He thought he had to hook the ball in order to hit it as far as Palmer. He wouldn't listen to anybody. He wouldn't listen to Nelson anymore, and Byron was hurt. I remember one time I said to him, 'Kenny, have you got a dictionary at your house? Go home and look up the word humble—h-u-m-b-l-e, humble. You have no idea of the meaning of the word.' Oh, he was sore at me. He didn't even speak to me for a while after that."

It may have been the new hook, or it may have been something else, but Venturi stopped winning. Then, early in 1962, he suffered a strange injury. It happened during the fourth round of the Palm Springs Golf Classic. He was picking the ball out of the hole on the 10th green when suddenly he felt as if someone had put a stiletto in his chest. He managed to finish the round, but the next day he had to withdraw and go home.

For weeks thereafter Venturi could not raise his right hand high enough to comb his hair. Although doctors could find nothing specific, they tried cortisone and X ray and whirlpool baths and deep heat. Venturi kept playing, but his swing was short, flat and fast. "The faster I swing, the quicker it will be over," he told himself. Eventually the pain left him, but his swing was a shambles and so, in a sense, was Ken Venturi. He was a man not used to needing help or asking for it—and he did not ask now. In fact, he refused it. The unhumble loner, he fought by himself to try to regain his physical and mental composure in a sport that puts great demands on both. And so the bad months and the bad years stormed upon him; and that is how he ended up weeping happily over a third-place finish at the Thunderbird last June.

Two days after the Thunderbird Venturi shot a 77-70, passing 45 others who were ahead of him after the morning round, to qualify for the U.S. Open in Washington. Conni flew in from California to join him.

On Wednesday night, the eve of the U.S. Open, Venturi decided he would like to spend a few minutes in church. He and Conni found the nearby Catholic church locked, but through a window Ken saw a priest sitting in the rectory office, and he rang the bell. The priest opened the door for the Venturis, turned on the lights, and Ken remembers praying "not for anything specific, like a victory. I was just asking God to please give me faith in myself."

On Thursday morning Venturi teed off early in a pairing with George Bayer and Billy Maxwell. Two practice rounds had given him nothing but respect for the Congressional course. "It was the longest and toughest thing I ever saw," Ken says. "I had already decided that a 285 would have to win it. It was such a tough course that you didn't dare back off a shot. I was pretty pleased when I shot a 72."

After finishing his round he collected some mail that was waiting for him. It included a letter from Father Francis Kevin Murray, then an assistant pastor at the St. Vincent de Paul church in the Marina district of San Francisco, who had taken an interest in Ken. "I could tell the troubles Ken was going through," says the priest, "sort of like reading between the lines. He didn't say anything, but I knew pretty much how he felt. Sometimes when Ken was away, I would send him a telegram just to let him know I was thinking of him and appreciated our friendship, that I believed he could succeed."

Father Murray's letter—six pages long—said, among many things, "I truly think you are ready.... You are at peace with yourself. You respect yourself. You are truly the new Ken Venturi, born out of suffering and turmoil but now wise and mature and battle-toughened."

"When I got the message clearly fixed in my mind," Ken says, "I began to realize what had been making me back off. I felt now that after two years of trouble I really was at last wise and mature and battle-toughened. I felt at peace with myself, and I felt I could cope with anything."

Venturi shot a splendid even-par 70 on his second round, but his fourth-place standing was obscured by the almost unbelievable round of 64 that Tommy Jacobs came in with on the same day. Anyway, people had long since written off Ken Venturi as the likely winner of a big championship. Ken trailed Jacobs by six strokes and Arnold Palmer by five, but as he arrived at the club early Saturday morning he told a friend, "I feel great." He must have, for the score he shot on Saturday morning through the first nine holes of one of the most difficult courses ever to entertain a major championship looks, in retrospect, as if it might have been dreamed rather than played—3-3-4-3-3-4-3-3-4—five birdies and four pars for a 30. Instead of backing off shots he was ramming even the longest irons over the edges of Congressional's big traps and right to the pin. Some of the shots were so risky that ever-bold Arnold Palmer played them a little safe. It seemed lunacy not to. But Venturi hit for the pins like a golfer gone berserk. Birdie followed birdie. The temperature was over 100° as Ken began the second nine holes. Having eaten very little breakfast and having neglected to take any salt tablets, he soon became dehydrated. With three holes still to play in his morning round, he began to suffer from heat prostration. His hands shook, and he could scarcely hold his putter. Even so, he needed only pars on the 17th and 18th holes to tie Jacobs' course record of the day before. He bogeyed each, however, missing a four-foot putt at the 18th, but his exceptional 66 had brought him within two strokes of Jacobs, who was still the leader.

Ken was too ill to eat any lunch. A doctor was summoned, and he made Venturi lie down in the rear of the locker room while restoring the liquid in his system with the aid of salt and iced tea. He played the last 18 holes accompanied by a doctor carrying a thermos of iced tea, and with towels dipped in ice water around his neck. Few people who knew Venturi's condition thought he would be able to complete his afternoon round. When Conni was asked by reporters in the press room if she thought he could make it, she replied, "If he doesn't, he'll die trying."

"She was right," Ken said later. "Literally, I was going to make it if I had to die in the effort. If I didn't make it I was out of golf. I had failed too often before. That last round became my whole life."

Venturi cannot yet describe that last 18 holes on Saturday afternoon in a normal tone of voice. "The 66 in the morning was great and all that," he says, "but the 70 in the afternoon overshadowed it a thousand times. I really never knew where I was. Like a robot, I just kept going going, going. The pin at the end of each hole looked like a telephone pole. All I could see was that pin. I would just keep moving from the tee to the ball to the green. The ball kept on going straight and I would follow it.

"At the end of the 9th hole, where I sank a birdie putt, Joe Dey said to me, 'There's the scoreboard over there if you want to know how you stand,' and I said, 'Joe, I don't want to know.'

"Ray Floyd, who was playing with me, was a terrific help. I holed a very tough birdie putt at 13—a critical shot—and I guarantee Ray must have jumped six feet in the air. I could just feel his encouragement. I parred 15, 16 and 17. I can't describe how I felt on 18. I hardly knew where I was. After I hit my tee shot, I asked Bill Hoelle, a friend of mine, 'How do I stand?' He said, 'All you gotta do is stay on your feet. You're four strokes ahead.' It was like a miracle or something. And then I hit that last putt, and it broke into the hole. I dropped my putter, and the only words that came out were 'My God, I've won the Open.' "

There followed the wild confusion and congratulations that always attend such peaks in sports drama, and it was not until late that evening that Ken called home and talked to his son Matthew. Now, it is not in the nature of small boys to understand lean years or hard times, and some months before Matthew had been pleading for a swimming pool in the backyard. "You can have it if I win the Open," Ken told him, taking what was surely a safe way out. When Matthew finally got on the phone that emotion-filled night last June he asked his father: "Is this the Open you meant?"

The pool is in now, and landscaped, a luxury that will consume a sizable part of the Open champion's winning purse of $17,000. And the fact that it is there says a great deal about the new Venturi and his belief in himself. He is confident of success at last. He went on from the Open to win two other tournaments and more than $60,000 this year, and he feels he is only just beginning to play the kind of golf he is capable of. He laughs when he quotes his friend and staunchest backer, Ed Lowery, who said at a victory dinner in San Francisco: "Ken has won the U.S. Open—four years behind schedule."



This is the exact moment at the U.S. Open when Venturi first dared hope that his trials were over. He has just sunk a difficult 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th green during the final round to increase his lead to three strokes. Ignoring the gallery, he lifts his head in private exaltation. On the cover he is standing in front of a near-life-size reproduction of this photograph.



The intense heat added to the melodrama of Venturi's victory. In top picture he is almost gasping as he wipes his face with an iced towel that was handed to him by a doctor. At far left, he sinks the 10-foot putt on the 18th green that gives him his first tournament win in nearly four years. At left, sweat drips from his nose and chin as he signs his scorecard.


It is a time for smiles in the Venturi family as Matthew, Conni and Timmy sit happily with the new U.S. Open champion in their Hillsborough, Calif. home.