PALM DESERT, Calif. - Funeral services were held today for pro golfer and sportscaster Ken Venturi. The longtime Valley resident passed away last week.
The funeral was a final farewell for one of golf's most celebrated figures both on and off the course. Nearly 400 people attended the service for Ken Venturi in Palm Desert, including some of golf's greatest.
"Ken Venturi is true to his word, he was true to himself and he was true to the game," said son Matt Venturi.
Venturi, teased as a boy for his stuttering, turned to golf.
"It was golf that saved him," said CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz.
Golf quickly became a passion. Venturi went on to win 14 PGA tournaments, including the 1964 U.S. Open. He shifted to broadcasting after carpel tunnel slowed down his game. He became a broadcasting legend, serving as the longest lead analyst in the history of sports, 35 years.
"Just the greatest announcer of golf in the history of the game ," said friend Michael Dante.
He was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame less than two weeks before he passed away.
"They were going to allow Kenny to come back next year to deliver his induction speech, and I totally believe that was going to happen, and I am just so sorry it's not going to happen," said Nantz.
Venturi was known for his skills out on the golf course, but also for his charity work. That's why his family has asked in lieu of flowers people donate to the Loma Linda Children's Hospital.
"This was one of the most generous men of all time for charity, he gave and gave his time and his own money; he made other people better," said Nantz.
Venturi was also a friend to presidents and Hollywood legends.
"We arrived in Palm Springs, our home wasn't ready, so we moved in with Mr. Sinatra," said Matt Venturi.
"It was an incredible life, the stories they told, the places he got to go, the people he mingled with, how lucky I feel to have known him," said Nantz.
Nantz also shared some found memories.
"An unsuspecting waitress comes to the table, 'Can I get you guys a cocktail?' Kenny looks at her straight faced. 'I'll take a Diet Dr. Pepper.' 'Sir, we don't have Diet Dr. Pepper.' 'Then, I'll have a Crown Royal on the rocks," said Nantz.
Venturi was also a coach. His pupi,l PGA golfer John Cook, will never forget when he first met him.
"He came up to shake my hand and looked over me and I knew right then and there that was the last time I was ever going to wear shorts around Ken Venturi," said Cook. "The only thing that Kenny wanted from me in return for his time and knowledge, was to pass this on someday to somebody."
Fellow Broadcaster, Jim Natnz, hopes future generations will learn from Venturi's legacy.
"Ken stood for a lot of things that were right, and he was principled, and he believed in doing good things. He gave so much of himself to so many good people," said Nantz.
A veteran of the Korean War, Venturi received full military honors. An American flag was folded and given to Venturi's widow.
Venturi known for his speeches, was given a final standing ovation.
"I maybe lucky enough to meet some of the most fascinating accomplished people these next 50 years, but I can promise you one thing, I will never meet a man like you," said Jim Nantz.
Ken Venturi is survived by his wife Kathleen, and his two sons, Tim and Matt. He was 82.