Posted by: John K. Abendroth, PGA
Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 10:48 AM
The U.S. Open Championship being played at the Olympic Club in June of 2012 is steeped in history, but there is a micro-climate of history when you think about former champions and Olympic Club members Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi and their rare claim to fame.
Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi are each a U.S. Open Champions, and members of the Olympic Club where Venturi was a member and won the club championship, but most amazing is the fact they both attended the same High School about 15 years apart. Then you consider that Abraham Lincoln High School is in San Francisco and in clear view from the Olympic Club, it explains how the stars aligned to help make these two players great stars.
The same year that Ken Venturi won his emotional U.S. Open in 1964, Johnny Miller won the U.S. Junior Championship. In the same year, Bill Higgins an Olympic Club member won the USGA Senior Amateur Championship. San Francisco has really produced some great golfers and great golf history.
The streak goes deeper than the Open comparisons with Venturi (1951) and Miller (1968) winning the California State Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach as did fellow Lincoln High grad Doug Nelson who won in 1971. Another Lincoln High Graduate Bobby Lunn would win 6-times on tour as well as winning the 1963 Public Links Championship. Lunn also won what you could call a mini-major…he won the par-3 contest at the Masters in 1969.
San Francisco had a long streak of very strong junior and High School programs with several country clubs most notably the Olympic Club allowing juniors to join their merit junior program and then be allowed to join as an adult at the age of 21. Ethel Venturi, Ken’s Mother was very involved with junior golf running the San Francisco Junior Golf Championship and the San Francisco Family golf championship which has each been held for dozens of years.
Another hot-bed of junior golf growth was with John Geertsen Sr. the head professional at San Francisco Golf Club. John was the instructor for Johnny Miller (and this author) and was also a recruiter for BYU where Johnny Miller would become an All-American.
Will Ryan the long-time coach was very proud of his involvement coaching Ken and Johnny along with Doug Nelson, Bob Lunn, this author and others. When asked recently how involved with the golf swing “Uncle Will” was to his great players…he was supportive had some basic ideas, but mainly he ran a tight program and was a dependable ride to the golf course. He was a very nice man and a very good coach.
So when you attend the U. S. Open at The Olympic Club this year, look north east, and see the tan building on the hill, that is Lincoln High School, the home of two great U.S. Open Champions, Johnny Miller and Ken Venturi, two great champions from a championship city.