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Golfer Venturi a real Prince guy

Anyone who has been in Prince Jewelers on Huntington Drive has probably noticed that the pictures on the wall include one of Ken Venturi, the legendary golfer who went on to a highly successful 35-year career as a golf commentator for CBS Sports.

Larry Stewart

Larry Stewart

Gino Roncelli, who owns Roncelli Plastics on Duarte Ave. in Monrovia, recently was in Prince Jewelers and asked owner Si “Lam” Huynh about the photo. Lam explained that Venturi, who lives in Rancho Mirage, was a customer. Roncelli told Lam he’d love to meet him.

Lam, as his regular customers know, is a mover and a shaker who can make things happen. He went to work on setting things up, and on Jan. 27, Venturi and his wife Kathleen met Roncelli at Prince Jewelers. Then all three, along with Lam, went to lunch at the San Gabriel Country Club, where Roncelli is a member. (Story continues below following 2 1/2-minute video of a recent casual meeting of old and new friends, including golf legend Ken Venturi, at Prince Jewelers in Arcadia.)



Get the Flash Player to see this content.So how is it that Venturi, winner of the 1964 U.S. Open and named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year that year, became of customer of a jewelry store in Arcadia?

It all has to do with Kathleen Venturi, who is from Arcadia and a longtime Prince customer. She and her late husband, Fred Palladino, owned the Drive-In Liquor store at Santa Anita and Huntington for some 20 years, beginning in 1968. Kathleen was then commonly known as “Dixie.”

The Palladino children, Debra, Gina and Joe, attended Hugo Reid Elementary School, Foothills Middle School and Arcadia High.

Kathleen and Venturi began dating nine years ago and were married two years later. They met because both serve on boards at Loma Linda University Hospital. Venturi lost his wife Beau to brain cancer in 1997.

Getting a chance to talk with Venturi at Lam’s place brought back some fond memories for me. During my 30-plus years as the TV-Radio sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, I had interviewed him a few times over the years. A column I wrote in 1995 carried this headline: “Venturi: Portrait of a Golf Commentator.”

We talked about our mutual friend Jim Nantz, who recently was named Sportscaster of the Year for a fifth time. Venturi and Nantz worked side-by-side on CBS golf telecasts for many years.

I also reminded Venturi that he was involved in one of my fondest memories ever. In the mid-1990s – I can’t remember the exact year – I was invited up to Pebble Beach to play golf with esteemed CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian. We ended up playing on the course at Spanish Bay. To my surprise, our foursome included actor Jack Lemmon. I remember that Venturi and his then-wife Beau followed along in a golf cart on the back nine along with a few other spectators. It seemed weird. Ken Venturi was watching me play golf, and trust me, that is something to behold.

I remember on one particular hole, I think it was No. 15, I was walking along and talking with Lemmon after we hit our tee shots to approximately the same spot. A couple of deer ran across the fairway, the sun was glistening off the ocean and the small gallery following along included the great Ken Venturi.

I recall saying to myself, “Lock this in the memory bank. It doesn’t get any better than this.” And visiting with Venturi the other day here in Arcadia – and meeting Kathleen and seeing how good they both looked – is something else I’ll lock into my memory bank.

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