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Ken Venturi Wins U.S. Open

June 20, 1964 - A golfer who refused to quit became the U.S. Open champion today. Ken Venturi (pictured), close to exhaustion after a morning round of 66, came on to win at the Congressional Country Club today with a final 70 for a 72-hole total of 278.

After being attended by a physician before starting the final 18-hole round in punishing heat, the 33-year-old Californian revived to beat Tommy Jacobs by four strokes. Bob Charles, a New Zealand southpaw and the British Open champion, had 283. Arnold Palmer finished at 286.

With the temperature at 100 degrees at some places on the course, Venturi staggered at the 16th tee of the third round, in which he tied a nine-hole Open record of 30 to draw even with Jacobs.

“I don’t know if I can make it in,” he told his playing partner, Ray Floyd. He did, but once in the clubhouse it was still questionable if he could resume in the allotted intermission of 45 minutes.

He looked haggard and was ordered by Dr. John Everett, the tournament doctor, to lie down and rest. He took salt tablets and drank tea and was on the mark when called to play. “I’m okay,” he said to his wife, Connie, at the first tee before he started out. Dr. Everett followed Venturi the rest of the way, “like a mother hen,” feeding Ken 12 salt tablets and supplying cold towels and drinks of water at the proper times.

The rest proved a glorious comeback story for Venturi after three lean years. In 27 starts in 1963, he earned only $3,848. As pleased as he was with today’s $17,000 first prize, it was the tournament victory rather than the money that restored completely his lost pride and confidence. “I promised my caddy $1,000 if I won,” Ken commented. “He’s probably fallen in the river by now.”

“I didn’t have Arnie’s Army,” Venturi continued, “but those cats I had out there were solid supporters. I think I had Venturi’s Vultures the last three years.”

Venturi was close to tears at the end of his long day and received tremendous ovations from both the fans and more than 200 newsmen who had waited 30 minutes for him in the press room.

It had been a long time since August 1960, when he won his last victory and began his downward plunge because of injuries and lack of faith in himself.

He credited the restoration of self-confidence and the victory itself to Father Frank Murray, a Paulist priest in San Francisco, a frequent golf partner who has guided him both in person and through numerous letters for months.

“Eight months ago,” Venturi said, “I was ready to give up the game. I was looking for another job. Through Father Murray and my wife Connie, I’ve been able to make this day possible. In fact, I got a letter from Father Murray just two days ago, and he made me feel for the first time that maybe I did have the talent to win this thing.

“One of the things he said was that no matter which way the ball bounced, I should keep my composure. I shouldn’t get too elated over something great and shouldn’t let something bad bother me. Just keep a steady pace. He said, ‘Have faith in yourself to play to the best of your ability.’ I owe it to him.

“I had the greatest mental attitude I’ve ever had going into a championship. I feel I’ve taken the bitterness of defeat, now I’m going to enjoy the fruits of victory.”

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