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The final round of the 1964 National Open on the longest Open course ever - played at 7,053 yards outside Washington, D.C., at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., during 100-degree weather with humidity near 100 percent - made Ken Venturi a legend in golf as he continued with heat exhaustion and won with a 10-foot putt for par on the last hole.
But perhaps Venturi's lifetime achievements -including overcoming a stutter to become an enduring CBS golf analyst for most of the major tournaments, and his recent triumph over prostate cancer - have made him a true champion.
He became a professional golfer in 1956 and joined The PGA Tour in 1957. By 1960, he had won 10 tournaments. But he suffered a back injury as a result of a car accident in 1962 and couldn't play golf until he recovered. From 1961 to 1963 he didn't win on the tour and there were times when he was barely making a living as a pro golfer.
At last year's Loma Linda University Proton Charity Invitational, Venturi said that after his 1962 car accident, " I told God, 'You put the clubs back in my hands and I promise, I'll give back."
And so he has. It was a lesson taught to him by pro golfer Byron Nelson. "Give back to the game that has been good to you."
Venturi made a personal commitment 11 years ago to host the Ken Venturi Invitational Golf Tournament for the Loma Linda University Proton Treatment Center. For the past decade, he and fellow golfing champion John Cook have been active in this charity event held every May close by Loma Linda at the Club at Morningside near Palm Springs, Calif.
Venturi's participation in the event led to the establishment of the Ken Venturi Research Fund, which has raised nearly $2 million for cancer research. And on a more personal note: Venturi was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2000 and sought proton beam radiation treatment which has made him cancer-free since May.
"Once I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was my informed and logical choice to go straight to Loma Linda for proton therapy treatment", Venturi said.
Proton therapy has the ability to specifically target a localized tumor site and destroy the tumor without adverse effects typical of standard radiation, seed implants, or surgery, said experts at Loma Linda's Proton Treatment Center. It is an outpatient treatment proven for its effectiveness without virtually any of the side effects common to all other forms of treatment.
Venturi was cured within nine months of his diagnosis, which shows how this therapy can benefit men with prostate cancer. Although, as he said at the 2001 Proton Charity Invitational: " I feel great, but the treatment didn't improve my golf game."
Loma Linda University Medical Center, in southern, Calif., pioneered the first hospital-based treatment center when it opened in 1990. Over 6,000 patients have been treated for cancers in some 20 different anatomical sites, and, because of the high effectiveness of this treatment, combined with its tissue and organ sparing advantages, about 50 percent of the patients have been men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Many of these men take advantage of the Loma Linda location to pursue their golf games during the painless treatment process.
Within the next year, Loma Linda will be able to expand the benefits of proton treatment through a technique known as scanning, allowing for the treatment of many other forms of cancer, including women with breast cancer. Loma Linda is the only medical facility in the U.S. offering proton treatment for cancerous tumors. About 140 patients a day are benefiting from this breakthrough technology. Later this year, Massachusetts General Hospital, in a joint venture with Harvard University in Boston, will begin proton therapy treatments.
To learn more about proton therapy call 1-800-protons (776-8667) or log on to www.llu.edu/proton .
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