Eyes sparkling, Ken Venturi spoke with the media Monday at Congressional. His win U.S. Open win 1964, of course, was on everyone’s mind. But Venturi covered a range of topics, from stuttering to changes to the Congressional course. Here are a few excerpts:
On overcoming his stuttering:
When I was 13 years old my teacher told my mother, I’m sorry, Mrs. Venturi, but your son will never be able to speak. He’s an incurable stammerer. And my mother asked me what I planned to do. … I said I’m picking up the loneliest sport I know and picked up a set of hickory shafts across the street from a man and went to Harding Park and played my first round of golf.
When I was practicing, it was always the U.S. Open. And I always dreamt and always thought that I would win the U.S. Open. But I never dreamt I’d be able to speak or do what I’m doing and doing television for 35 years. … But when I put the headset on and what “The King’s Speech” did and the thing he did were things I did myself. And they couldn’t figure it out, the Stuttering Foundation, of how did you do it? I don’t know, just things I picked up. And it was the rhythm of swinging the club and talking with it.
On the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club:
I think the 18th hole here is probably one of the premier finishing holes in all of golf. And the gallery, you know, 25,000 there, and the applause was deafening, from the time I hit my tee shot. And then after I hit my second shot it was the first time I took off my hat to acknowledge the gallery. And there was no yelling, no screaming. The applause was deafening. And it went on until I hit the bunker shot and then I hit my putt on the 18th hole. And it was going to miss on the right and broke left a little bit and went int the hole and that’s when I dropped my putter and raised my hands up, which you see the picture so many times, and I said, “My God, I won the Open.”
On not playing Congressional since the Open:
The last time I played here was in June of 1964 . When we did the Kemper and stuff I’d do some tips here then. I never played it again. Of course, they don’t play the same course. The 16th and 17th were from the other golf course. But I’ve walked it and can reminisce with it.
On signing his scorecard at the Open:
All of a sudden there was a hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘sign it, Ken, it’s correct.’ And I looked up and it was (the USGA’s) Joe Dye and that’s when I signed my card. So that was the thought. The only way I could lose it now, look at Roberto DiVincenzo at the Masters , what he did, the wrong card, and that’s the only way I could go, I had finished.
On this year’s layout of Congressional being the second-longest course in Open history:
It played then (in 1964), it was the longest par 70 in the history of the Open. It played 7,050 yards. And today, I guess, well, the lengths are longer, but they say the length they’ll have this year will be the maximum like 7,350.
But where they hit it today compared to where we used to hit it was 300 yards. If you think about it, what is hard to believe, they gave me the stats. In 1964 I was No. 1 in driving accuracy and I was 16th overall in driving distance and I drove it to 249 yards. I was just watching players at the 10th hole, playing 218 yards and Bubba Watson just hit a 6-iron. In my day that was a good 4-wood for 218.
On today’s players:
You can’t compare today to the talent of Bobby Jones and hickory shafts and what he did and the conditions of the golf courses. It’s all a different era and I think golf is — well, maybe bowling, but where unequals can be equal in play.