Tony Lema, Ken Venturi, and Harvie Ward honored posthumously
World Golf Hall-of-Famer Greg Norman, a two-time winner of the Open Championship and runner-up in seven other major championships, is the Honoree for the 2017 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. Norman, 62, is one of six multiple winners of the Memorial Tournament, winning in 1990 and 1995.
Norman was recognized in the Memorial Tournament’s annual Honoree Ceremony Wednesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Also being honored posthumously were major championship winners Tony Lema and Ken Venturi, and amateur standout Harvie Ward.
“I first met Greg in 1976 when we were paired together in the first two rounds of the Australian Open,” Jack Nicklaus said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “I had heard great things about this dashing, blonde 21-year-old Australian, and I was looking forward to witnessing it myself. Greg stepped on the first tee and proceeded to cold-top his drive en route to an 80. I promise you, folks, it got much better from that point on.
“I immediately began to follow this talented young golfer. He won in just his third start as a 21-year-old pro. He played the Australasian and European Tours (winning a combined 15 times), and I paid close attention. I watched as he became a great player and a fantastic driver of the golf ball.”
Although taking up golf later than many of the game’s greats, Norman amassed 91 professional victories around the world and reigned atop the Official World Golf Rankings for an astounding 331 consecutive weeks. The dynamic and charismatic Aussie, with his shock of blonde hair, earned the nickname “The Great White Shark” for his aggressive, attacking style of play. He also had a bite to his wit, evident in the exchange Nicklaus and Norman had when they were neighbors in the same Lost Tree community in North Palm Beach, Fla.
“I used to say that Greg lived a driver and 3-iron from me,” Nicklaus recalled. “Greg would say, ‘Well, it’s a driver and wedge for me.’ He was spunky. I liked that.”
Norman played cricket, rugby and Australian Rules football while growing up, but became hooked on golf as a teenager after serving as a caddie for his mother, Toini. His first golf instruction came through Jack Nicklaus’ best-selling book, “Golf My Way.”
“46 years ago, Jack Nicklaus had a profound impact on my life,” Norman said. “I was 16 years old. I was studying physics and chemistry at home. My father came into my room and saw My 55 Ways to Lower Your Golf Score and Golf My Way, and boy did I get my butt kicked really hard. I failed physics and chemistry, but I did not fail in the game of golf.”
In just 18 months, Norman was playing to a scratch handicap, and after participating in a series of amateur events, he turned pro in 1976 at age 21. He earned $28 a week as an assistant professional at Royal Queensland Golf Club, a far cry from when he later became the first golfer to surpass $10 million in career earnings on the PGA TOUR.
“During the process of getting down from a 27-handicap to scratch in 18 months, I buried my head in Jack’s books,” Norman said. “I wanted to get into his mind and I wanted to get into his golf swing—more so his golf swing than anything else early on, because one thing that resonated from his book was to figure out how to hit it as hard as you can possibly hit it, then learn how to hit it straight… And that’s exactly what I did.”
Norman earned his first professional victory at the West Lakes Classic in 1976, and a year later claimed his first European Tour title at the 1977 Martini International. He made a splash in his first Masters Tournament in 1981, finishing fourth.
Norman began competing on the PGA TOUR full time in 1983 and won the Kemper Open and the Canadian Open the following year. He became one of the most dominant players in the world in the 1980s and early ’90s and was consistently at the top of the leaderboard in the major championships. In 1986, Norman assembled one of the great seasons in golf history. He won 10 times worldwide and led both the PGA TOUR and the Australasian Tour money lists.
Most significantly, he held the 54-hole lead in each of the four major championships, and he broke through for his first major title that year by winning the Open Championship at Turnberry, in Scotland. Ironically, the victory came after Nicklaus—who beat Norman earlier in the year at the Masters—gave his friend a swing tip on the eve of the final round. Norman captured a second Claret Jug in 1993 at Royal St. George’s, thanks to a sterling final-round 64.
It was during this dominant run that Norman conquered Muirfield Village Golf Club—twice—to quench his desire to win on a course designed by Jack.
“When you think about the winners of this tournament, and you think about the strength of this field, it’s equal to any major championship and equal to any tough golf course we play,” Norman said.
“I’ve always said that when I won here twice, it was the proudest moments of my life because I always wanted to win on Jack’s golf courses. You’ve got 14 golf clubs in your bag, and Jack Nicklaus designs a golf course to test all 14 golf clubs. So when you perform well on his golf course, you know you’ve performed well.”
The Great White Shark led the PGA TOUR in earnings three times (1986, ’90, ’95) and scoring average three times (1986, ’89 and ’94), and in 1995 he won the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as PGA TOUR Player of the Year. Norman is widely considered one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the game, and he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001 with a higher percentage of votes (82%) than any other inductee in history.
Off the course, Norman embarked on a successful business career, establishing his Greg Norman Golf Course Design company in 1987. He expanded into other business avenues even as he maintained his full-time touring schedule. He founded the Greg Norman Collection clothing line in 1992 and made his foray into the wine industry with the formation of his umbrella multinational corporation, now called the Greg Norman Company. His philanthropic efforts have raised more than $12 million for charities, including CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, which is supported by a tournament he hosts, the Franklin Templeton Shootout, and the Environmental Institute for Golf, promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Tony Lema joined the PGA TOUR in 1957, and after a slow start he became one of the game’s most popular players and a consistent winner. A native of Oakland, Calif., Lema won 22 professional titles, including 12 times on the PGA TOUR in a four-year span beginning in 1962. He was a fun-loving figure who earned the nickname “Champagne Tony” in 1962 after promising to buy champagne for the press if he won the Orange County Open Invitational. He went on to win by beating Bob Rosburg in a playoff. From 1963 to 1966, Lema didn’t miss a cut in 16 major championships, and he finished in the top-10 eight times, including a runner-up finish to Jack Nicklaus by one stroke at the 1963 Masters. At the 1964 Open Championship, Lema brilliantly navigated the Old Course at St. Andrews to beat Nicklaus by five strokes and win his only major title. Also a fierce competitor in match play, Lema helped the United States win two Ryder Cups and finished with an impressive record of eight wins, one loss and two ties. In 1966, at the age of 32, Lema died in an airplane crash in Illinois after leaving the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. His wife Betty also died in the accident.
Ken Venturi enjoyed two successful career paths in golf, and was perhaps better known for his second as a longtime television golf analyst. Born in San Francisco, Venturi was one of the game’s top amateurs who in 1956 nearly became the first amateur to win the Masters, falling one stroke shy to Jack Burke, Jr. He turned professional later that year and was a regular winner on the PGA TOUR starting in 1957 until his career was derailed by carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. He retired in 1967, but not before winning 14 titles, including a brave and memorable victory in the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Venturi battled through a dangerous level of dehydration amid temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees to beat Tommy Jacobs by four shots. He won twice more that year to earn PGA Player of the Year honors, and he also was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He competed in the 1965 Ryder Cup and was U.S. Presidents Cup captain in 2000, winning in each. Following his playing career, Venturi served 35 years as lead golf analyst for CBS Sports, the longest such stint in sports broadcasting history. He died in 2013 at age 82, just 12 days after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
A native of Tarboro, N.C., Edward Harvie Ward was best known for his dominance as an amateur golfer and won both the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur before becoming a top teacher. He first came on the scene in 1949 by winning the NCAA Division I individual title while attending the University of North Carolina, where he earned a degree in economics. Three years later, Ward captured the British Amateur, and he finished runner-up in 1953 in his title defense. Known for a razor-sharp short game, Ward would add the 1954 Canadian Amateur to his resume and then U.S. Amateur titles in 1955 and ’56. He is one of two men to win British, U.S. and Canadian Amateur trophies. Ward went a perfect 6-0 in three Walker Cup appearances, in 1953, ’55 and ’59, the latter as a teammate of a young Jack Nicklaus. He competed in 18 majors – 10 Masters and eight U.S. Opens – and finished fourth in the 1957 Masters after beginning the final round just one stroke behind Sam Snead. In 1974, Ward turned professional and became a world-renowned golf instructor. His most famous pupil was three-time major winner Payne Stewart. Ward died in 2004 at age 78.
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide is held annually at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. The Tournament, founded and hosted by Jack Nicklaus, is conducted each year with three goals in mind: to honor the memory of individuals living and deceased who have distinguished themselves in the game of golf; to showcase the world’s best golfers competing on one of the most challenging venues in the world for the enjoyment of spectators; and to benefit many Greater Columbus Charities in alliance with the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and numerous other local organizations. For more information, visit thememorialtournament.com or call 614.889.6700.