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KEN VENTURI, who "won the 1964 U.S. Open golf championship in dramatic fashion and became a longtime television commentator," died Friday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at the age of 82, according to Gary Klein of the L.A. TIMES. Venturi's son, MATT, said that he died after "battling a spinal infection, pneumonia and an intestinal infection." Venturi was inducted into the World Golf HOF earlier this month and worked as CBS' lead golf analyst from '68-'02 though he "suffered from a severe stutter as a youth." CBS Sports Group President SEAN MCMANUS said Venturi "was not only one of golf's greatest champions, but also the signature voice of golf for almost two generations of fans and viewers" (L.A. TIMES, 5/18). In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch noted flags at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday were "lowered to half staff," and players during yesterday's final round wore red ribbons in memory of Venturi. His death comes just one month after the passing of legendary broadcaster PAT SUMMERALL, who "teamed for years with Venturi as CBS’ play-by-play man." For golf fans, the Summerall-Venturi "tandem carried the same clout as the Summerall-JOHN MADDEN tandem on NFL telecasts" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/19). CBS Sports Coordinating Producer LANCE BARROW said, "I'm just glad we were able to get him in the Hall of Fame before he passed away. That makes me happy, even though he couldn't accept it and get the pats on the back" (GLOBAL GOLF POST, 5/20 issue). CBS' JIM NANTZ said, "You did it your way, Kenny. There will never be another one like you. Thank you for the ride. You have left a stamp not just on my career, Kenny, but on my soul" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/17).
LEAVING A LEGACY: In N.Y., Richard Goldstein noted Venturi won 14 tournaments between '57-66 in a career "cut short by circulatory problems in his hands." Venturi’s "signature moment" came at the '64 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., when temperatures were "approaching 100 degrees, and the humidity seemed unconquerable as the players struggled to play" the final 36 holes in one day. Venturi "almost collapsed from the heat on the 17th green of his morning round but carded a remarkable 66." He was named PGA Tour Player of the Year in '64. Venturi is "survived by his third wife, KATHLEEN," and two sons, Matt and TIM. Venturi engaged in "many charitable endeavors while working as a broadcaster, most notably the Guiding Eyes Classic, an event in New York that included blind golfers" and raised more than $6M to provide dogs for the blind (N.Y. TIMES, 5/18). GOLF.com's Gary Van Sickle wrote Venturi's voice was a "comfortable one on the air as a broadcaster, especially because of his longevity." Van Sickle: "If you think golf announcing is more about comfort factor and familiarity than what is actually said, Venturi was perfect. He had his foibles and his annoying clichés, too, but the fact that he lasted in the booth forever attests to the audience's belief in him." GOLF.com's Mark Godich wrote Venturi "proved time and again that less is often more." Broadcasters in every sport could "learn a thing or two about the way Venturi did his job" (GOLF.com, 5/19).
RISING TO THE TOP: In S.F., Ron Kroichick noted Venturi "initially declined" late CBS Sports Producer FRANK CHIRKINIAN's offer to work in television, "fearful of looking foolish with his onetime stutter." But he "overcame those fears and became an on-air fixture for more than three decades" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/18). FOXSPORTS.com's Robert Lusetich wrote Venturi both "understood and accepted the secret of sports on television." His mantra was, "It’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t say." He would "joke that stammering taught him to be brief, but he was selling himself short." Venturi accepted that it "wasn’t about him; that golf was the star." However, some viewers said that Venturi was "too vanilla, too willing to toe the party line, too charitable with the players." He could be "guilty of sugar-coating" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/19).
A FITTING TRIBUTE: CBS’ coverage of the PGA Tour Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday featured an uninterrupted 17-minute tribute to Venturi. Footage of Venturi’s HOF induction video was aired and Nantz spoke in the 18th tower with PEGGY NELSON, the widow of BYRON NELSON. He later talked with golfer JOHN COOK, who learned the game from Venturi. Nantz, who worked with Venturi for more than two decades, opened the broadcast saying, "This is not an easy one and it’s not going to be an easy one to get through, to try to be detached about someone you really loved. ... One of his biggest heroes was Byron Nelson, and the timing of Ken’s passing is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is that this all happens the week of Byron’s tournament” ("Byron Nelson Championship," CBS, 5/18). CBS' Barrow said that the "only other time the network took that approach" with the opening of a broadcast was after the death of BEN HOGAN in '97 (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/19).
With college graduations in full swing, several sports execs this weekend spoke at commencement ceremonies. In Milwaukee, Ellen Gabler reported MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG spoke at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and told the graduates to "have faith in the power of possibilities." He quoted JACKIE ROBINSON, telling the students "that their professional efforts should extend beyond themselves." Selig also received an honorary degree from the school (MILWAUKKE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/20). In Chicago, Becky Yerak noted Dodgers Chair MARK WALTER on Friday urged Northwestern Univ. graduates to "admit what they don't know" and to "listen to criticism but don't always let it dictate their lives." Walter "paid homage to his father's 'greatest generation.'" He said, "I'm afraid to think of what my generation will be named" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/18). Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT yesterday told the Suffolk Univ. College of Arts & Sciences, "Be your own person. Make your own decisions. Trust your own instincts. Take risks, and most importantly, don't be afraid to fail" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/20). In Baltimore, Candy Thomson notes Baseball HOFer CAL RIPKEN JR. at yesterday's Univ. of Maryland's commencement "spent the bulk of his 10-minute talk urging graduates to have a positive attitude" (Baltimore SUN, 5/20). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Brian Manzullo noted Basketball HOFer ISIAH THOMAS "continued to keep busy" after his career and yesterday graduated from the Univ. of California-Berkeley with a masters of education (FREEP.com, 5/19).
Another full house is expected Wednesday night at the N.Y. Marriott Marquis at Times Square for the 6th annual Sports Business Awards. The event, which has become one of the most anticipated in the sports business industry, will feature the live, exclusive announcement of the winners in 15 categories, as well as a special Lifetime Achievement tribute to JERRY REINSDORF. Space is limited, but there are still tables and individual seats available to purchase. Do not miss out on one of the most talked-about events of the year. Reserve your seat now at www.Sports-Business-Awards.com or (704) 973-1400.
Former GMR and IMG marketer TAMERA GREEN has opened her own consulting firm, Viridian Marketing. The Charlotte-based firm is working with Positec's Worx brand of tools and Sysco Corp., the foodservice company. Green left GMR Marketing a year ago after six years of work with clients ranging from Best Buy to Gillette. She was named to SportsBusiness Journal’s "Game Changer" list, which recognizes leading female sports execs, in '12 (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).
EXECS: PGA European Tour Chair NEIL COLES is stepping down. The 78-year-old Englishman took on the role in Nov. '75 (European Tour)....MP & Silva Group named PETER HUTTON COO. Hutton will lead the group's global commercial strategy. He previously was ESPN STAR Sports Managing Dir before it was rebranded as Fox Sports in southeast Asia (MP & Silva)....The Badminton World Federation named former Danish Olympic badminton player POUL-ERIK HOYER LARSEN President (AP, 5/18)....The NTRA named Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Exec VP & CMO CRAIG DADO to its BOD (NTRA)....NESN Senior Coordinating Dir MIKE NARRACCI "has informed the network he will leave at the end of baseball season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/17)....Volcom named Billabong Senior Design Dir MANDY FRY VP/Women's Division (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/19)....The Falcons promoted Western Regional Scout MARK OLSON to National Scout (AJC.com, 5/17).
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In Chicago, Dan McGrath profiled sportsradio personality CHET COPPOCK, who on Sept. 18 will "receive a lifetime achievement award" from the Chicagoland Sports HOF. After being "an airwaves fixture since the mid-'70s, Coppock hasn't had a daily, mainstream gig in his hometown in nearly a decade." Coppock has participation in the Blackhawks' Heritage Series, the "centerpiece of a schedule that includes Notre Dame pre- and postgame shows, commercial work and involvement with Newsbox.com, a website offering commentary and videos on various topics amid a heavy dose of high school hockey" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/19).
CHARITY STRIPE: The Miami Dolphins Foundation Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament at Miami Beach Arena "expects to have raised more than $800,000 this year." In 17 years of running the event, the Dolphins have raised over $11M for the local community (MIAMI HERALD, 5/19)....Thirty-four current and former Patriots players and coaches on Saturday put on a "free youth football clinic for 550 kids in Newtown, Conn., presenting an autographed uni shirt to Sandy Hook Elementary School" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/19)....Lakers G KOBE BRYANT yesterday announced "Kobe Up Close," an Aug. 15 charity event to be held at Nokia Theatre to "help eradicate homelessness" (LATIMES.com, 5/19)....The Univ. of Michigan's Champions for Children's Hearts weekend raised $1M for the C.S. Mott Children's hospital. Former NFLer STEVE HUTCHINSON said, "Our goal is to make Mott No. 1. It's now one of the top 10 in the country for children's hospital. Our goal is to get it to No. 1" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/20)....Students from several Charlotte schools attended Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race, "thanks to the Shell Fuel For Success program." The program "brings together kids with local police departments, helping them get to know officers as regular people" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19).
NAMES: Former NFL agent BENJAMIN GELLER has been "charged with taking nearly half a million dollars from the proceeds of a life insurance policy meant for" late client FRANK WARREN's wife and family. Geller on Friday was "charged in a one-count bill of information with wire fraud" (WWLTV.com, 5/16)....NFL Special Events Planner MEREDITH MACKINNON while traveling from Indianapolis to N.Y. on May 9 got a blood clot "lodged in her lung, resulting in stress on her heart and sending her into cardiac arrest." She was "twice revived by EMTs and doctors." NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL "sent a bouquet of flowers," and Panthers Owner JERRY RICHARDSON "delivered a message of support" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19)....JAY-Z's Roc Nation Sports bought new client WNBA Shock G SKYLAR DIGGINS a "brand new Mercedes as a graduation present," complete with "red bow" (SI.com, 5/19)....A’s Assistant GM DAVID FORST and his wife, REBE GLASS, “welcomed their second child” on Wednesday, a daughter named SASHA (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/19)....Celebrities attending Saturday's Preakness Stakes included musician GENE SIMMONS and wife, SHANNON TWEED, actors KEVIN SPACEY and JOSH CHARLES, chef BOBBY FLAY, NBC news anchor HARRY SMITH and wife, NBC Sports' ANDREA JOYCE and Olympic gymnastics coach BELA KAROLYI (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/18).
IN MEMORY: Broadcaster GEOFF GOWAN died on Thursday at the age of 83 “after a lengthy struggle with Parkinson’s disease.” Gowan was a member of the Order of Canada and of Canada’s Sports HOF, and was "an articulate broadcaster" (CP, 5/18).