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Ken Venning March 11, 2007

Living on an island you sometimes don’t know when a special person passes away. Chuck Shields, a professional in Calgary (several times Calgary’s new home salesman of the year) just informed me. “he was one of the good guys!” Chuck reminded me.

Ken Venning was the first of the really long ball hitters that I noticed (Leo Bradshaw and Al Paterson thought they were until they played with Ken). Before Ken, all the pros seemed to hit it 260 yards. His nick name became “the Animal” and he loved it.

Ken was working for Irving Lightstone at Maple Ups and his good friend and competitor Mike Fraser worked with me at Bayview. One day I got a call from Irv, “Gary, can you do me a favour and ask your staff to address Ken as Mr. Venning when they call, he’s applied for a Head Pro job and we want to change the image.” As I said no problem I could hear Irv say on the side, “Piggy, want to talk to Slatts?”

Ken won The Bursary one year and competed in South Africa. I remember Harold Henning asking me about this Canadian guy who could really hit it, Henning only remembered him as Animal.

Aside from being a good player Ken was always fun to be around. One year at the annual Bobby Clifton Memorial (Pro/Wife tournament) Ken took the microphone (he always did) and announced that we should change the format to Pro and Ex-wives because he had his own foursome.

It’s hard to say you miss someone that you haven’t seen for a few years, but Ken, I’ve only known you were gone for a half hour and I really miss you already! Ontario Pros, can we have a Ken Venning Memorial? One rule, Drivers only off the tee!

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

19 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I was very surprised to read of Ken Vennings passing. I had played with Ken in a couple of Pro/Club Champions events. He was always a lot of fun and as soon as he knew you could take it the teasing would begin. I can still see him one year when we played in a snow/rain/sleet storm. Ken was carrying an umbrella that had blown inside out. He was getting grumpier by the minute and wanted off the course so badly, but finished the round like a true Professional.

    • I played with Ken at Tanglewood GC in the Tour Qualifying school 1973 or so.Never forgot his name.He could hit with anyone I ever played with or witnessed. He was a little wild but had tremendous raw talent.Very sorry to hear of hi passing. Joe Pugh -Towson Md.

  • I knew Ken Venning when he was the head pro at Castlemore Golf and Country Club in the mid 80s. He was recommended to me by Doug Bruton who owned Bolton Golf Club at the time.
    Ken was a big, friendly and gruff guy who enjoyed good times, as I recall. I took some lessons from him during the winter and he was always the centre of attention. He enjoyed a good laugh, often at someone else’s expense!
    But he was a heavy smoker when I knew him and overweight. He told a story once of how he led a tournament on the east coast after Friday play, went out that night and partied hard, barely made it to the first tee the next morning and blew his brains out on the course. Easy come, easy go could have been his motto.

  • Thanks Chris and Moose, both comments right on, Ken would have loved them. He was unique, from the old school!

  • Pancreatic cancer I am told. His brother Peter, Golftown Downtown, said they are having a wake at Jake’s in Brampton April 15th I think.

  • Just browsing around and came across this info regarding Ken. I worked with Ken at Maple Downs (with Irv, Sam Young etc.). I was in the Back Shop, but had many a hoot with Ken. He was a great friend to all the staff at the course, regardless of stature.

    April 15th at Jake’s in Brampton eh? I’m going to try to attend.

  • Ed and I enjoyed a great time , when Ed worked for Kenny at Castlemore, as asst pro. We all had more laughs than you could have in a lifetime, and have especially fond memories of our trip to a pro-am in Paradise Island, Bahamas, when Kenny stretched the rules a little and brought a couple of long bomb hitting females to play in the pro-am! After that year, they changed the rules!!!! Kenny was one in a million and we will miss him. FYI, the tribute starts at 2:00pm at Jakes in Brampton. Get there early…I think it will be standing room only!

  • Take a kleenex but enjoy it, Ken wouldn’t want it any other way.
    Remember the time he mooned Mr. Murray Tucker?

  • I just stumbled upon this site. I am Ken’s (as he called me) “illegitimate daughter”. The tribute is indeed this Sunday. My family and I spent last Saturday having my dad’s favourite dinner for what would have been his 60th birthday. We are missing him terribly but trying to cope without his laughter in the house.
    I search him every so often on the net to see if any more articles are posted.
    I thank you all for the support and see you Sunday.

  • Moose, I can only imagine Ken having a row with Mrs. Frost – anyone who played there has. She is the firmest person in the golf industry, her way or the highway! I hope Mac was nominated as Man of the Year, every year!

  • Hi Gary & Friends,
    Sunday was a difficult and long day but we were soo happy to see so many friendly faces. I suppose there was just as much laughter as there were tears. Mike from Jakes did a phenomenal job and my family sat in our normal spot that we spent many dinners with Ken. As I sat listening to stories and looking at familiar faces my heart ached thinking how much he would have loved being there, and how much fun it would have been with him, it should have been his 60th birthday party.
    Many have mentioned a memorial tournament and I wanted to let you all know my brother and I have already begun the preparations for what will be an annual charity tournament in honour of Ken. Our plan is to have it at one of Ken’s close friends’ course. Once we have the location and date confirmed with him we will announce it. It is planned for the fall so as not to disrupt the course’s regular tournaments etc.
    If you are interested in assisting my brother and I, please feel free to contact us.
    courtney.spalding@gmail.com
    Any more stories (bad or good) please share, I miss him terribly and we have been printing these to place in a book for his grandkids, those born already and those to come.
    Courtney.

  • Years ago we participated in the Relay For Life with my husband, my mom, my dad and friends.We walked in honour of friends and more importantly my dads father who had passed a few years back from cancer. It was important to Ken that year to honour his dad. This year we will be lighting our luminaries for Ken and his dad.

    This year tragically we are not only walking for Albert Venning as we did in 2004, Sadly we are walking for my grama Rhona McColeman, who passed this February 28 battling colon cancer, and my dad Ken Venning who was taken too soon by pancreatic,liver and lung cancer this past March 11. Never in a million years did I think I would be doing this walk for Ken.

    My gramps is a survivor of prostate cancer and we will walk in honour of him and his successful battle.
    Please reach into your hearts and your pockets for such a worthy cause. Every little bit helps as Cancer affects everyone.

    Funds raised through Relay For Life make a difference. They help the Canadian Cancer Society fund the most promising research projects in the country, provide information services and support programs in the community and advocate for public policies that prevent cancer and help those living with it. Help me support the fight against cancer by pledging me for my participation in the Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life. It’s easier than ever – just click the link at the bottom of this message. If the link does not work please copy and paste into the address bar or go to
    http://www.cancer.ca/relayforlife/0,3707,153976105,00.html
    and search my name.

    Thanks,
    Courtney Spalding-Belanger

    https://secureccs.ca/?inv=43d380ca-64f0-48a3-9445-10ff1913c79f

  • I just came across the article on Ken’s passing. It took my breath away that Ken had passed away. I worked at Castlemore Golf and Country club (1989-1991). Ken did indeed enjoy life to the fullest! I am just starting to learn to golf all these years later. Any time I have thought of golf and now, I always remember the fun had at Castlemore by the members and friends of Ken’s as well as the staff. Ken’s memory is a part anyone who knew him.

    My deepest condolences to Ken’s family.

  • Gary, I worked for Fergie and Trow in the 70’s when you were at bayview. Trow told me a Piggy story from the Bursery days in S.A. There was a dinner after a tournament and Ken asked to order the wine for everyone. The waiter brought a bottle, uncorked it and poured a small amount for Ken to taste. Ken took a mouthfull and spat it out forcefully and said ” this tastes like shit!…. ( and looking at the Pros from S.A he added) but it’s OK for you guys!” He never wore socks and always had his laces undone. Trow and I played in the Pro-assistant Pro at Uplands with piggy and his assistant and Ken hit a wedga shot about 80 yards and the ball never got any higher than a door. What a great pair of hands. Roger

  • To all those that have known Ken I have a perfect story for you. First I have known Ken and his brother Dennis for over 40 years. I was shocked to hear of Kens death and pass on my condolences to his Family.

    When Ken and a group of us were playing in South Africa we found out Ken was terrified of snakes. Some of the gang decided to take Ken to a Snale park to get over his fear. All was going well. Ken discovered that a spitting Cobra behind a glass gage couldn,t spit at him. Ken decided to have a spitting contest with the Cobra with each landing spit on the glass. We all thought it was quite funny. Ken then went around the corner to the next cage. All I heard was a scream ” Theres a snake loose” and then seeing Ken in mid air landing on me. After prying him off I took a look to see what snake it was. It turned out to be a green garden hose in front of the cage to our relief.

    Another time Ken and a few others found a snall dead Shark on the beach. Ken took the Shark and placed it in the pool at the hotel. These and other great stories about Ken will live on because he was a great guy who was well liked by all of us. I was sorry that I only heard of his death well after the Funeral. I would have liked to say good by.

    The last time I saw him was at Al Baldings Funeral and he was his old self with good humour and a great smile. Hit em long Ken.

    Leo Bradshaw.

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