CREATED May. 23, 2013
PALM DESERT - Family and friends of golf legend, Ken Venturi, remembered his lifetime achievements during his funeral service today. More than 400 of his loved ones filled St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert. Among them were his wife, sons, long-time friend Barbara Sinatra, and colleague Jim Nantz.
The reverend opened the service with one of Venturi's sayings, "The greatest reward in life is to be remembered." The 82-year-old sure lived up to those words and leaves a legacy behind, as a golf champion, a broadcaster, a friend and a father.
"Ken Venturi was true to his word, he was true to himself and he was true to the game," shared his son, Matt, on the altar. He continued with one of his favorite memories of his dad.
"Before he left to play in the U.S. Open in 1964, I asked, 'Dad, if you win the Open will you build us a swimming pool in the backyard?' and he said, 'Son, I'll do it.' Well, when he came home he built that swimming pool and he was true to his word," added Matt, "And as a result of that, Timmy and I became really good swimmers because of the U.S. Open."
Venturi's long-time broadcasting colleague at CBS, Jim Nantz, also spoke of Venturi and even got some laughs from the crowd in the church.
"An unsuspecting waitress comes to the table, 'Can I get you guys a cocktail?' Kenny looks at her straight at her face and says 'I'll take a diet Doctor Pepper' and she says, 'Sir we don't have diet Doctor Pepper' and he responds, 'Then I'll have a Crown Royal on the rocks," said Nantz.
Nantz and several of his close friends who attended say he not only had a sense of humor, he was above all else, a philanthropist and someone with a big heart.
"He was always giving to those who didn't have, giving opportunity to play golf, to get to golf tournaments, to anywhere from donating golf balls to golf clubs to vans to high schools who didn't have it, very much a giver," said his long-time friend Michael Merris, who came with his mom from Los Angeles to give their condolences.
Following the service, two military officers did a flag-folding ceremony for Korean War Veteran, Venturi. Serving his country was one more of his achievements.
"He was a good friend, just a fine gentleman, and he loved America," said Michelle Slater teary-eyed, "He loved to make this world a better place, and it's really going to be hard without him." At the end of the day, Venturi got a standing ovation from his loved ones.
Venturi died in Rancho Mirage on May 17, two days after his birthday and 12 days after he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. The last two months, he had been hospitalized for a spinal infection, pneumonia and an intestinal infection.