Michael H. Ventura, a dentist who established and coached the golf team at Loyola College for nearly three decades, died in his sleep Monday at the Edenwald retirement community in Towson. He was 90.
Dr. Ventura, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Baltimore and raised in the 1200 block of N. Caroline St.
An outstanding athlete in his youth, Dr. Ventura was a champion wrestler and boxing champion at Polytechnic Institute during the mid-1930s.
He graduated from Poly in 1936 and earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 from Loyola College, where he had continued his wrestling career and was a student coach.
During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served in Brazil as a communications officer.
After being discharged at war's end, he enrolled at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery at the University of Maryland, from which he graduated in 1950.
Dr. Ventura, who held dental and orthodontia licenses, practiced for nearly 40 years at an office on East Belvedere Avenue in Northwood. He retired in 1989.
He had been president of the Baltimore City Dental Society as well as of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery Alumni Association. He also had been a delegate to the American Dental Association and a fellow of the International College of Dentistry.
"He took care of a lot of the Colts and Orioles, who were longtime patients," said a son, Michael G. Ventura of Towson.
In 1948, Dr. Ventura married the former Anne Condon, a legal secretary, who later became her husband's dental office bookkeeper. She died in 2005.
While attending dental school in the late 1940s, Dr. Ventura's interest in golf emerged.
"He took his wife's charge card, which she didn't know about, and went out and bought himself a set of golf clubs and began playing at Clifton Park," his son said, laughing.
Dr. Ventura went on to establish and head the golf program at Loyola College, and for 26 seasons - from 1971 to 1997 - he had only one losing record.
During those years, his teams earned eight Northeast/ECAC Metro Conference titles and six Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships - 1990 to 1993, 1995 and 1996.
Also during his tenure, Loyola College's golf team earned its first-ever national ranking in 1993.
John W. Stewart, who covered golf for T he Sun for years, described Dr. Ventura in a 1993 article as "an institution in the Loyola family."
Commenting on Loyola's successful golf program, Dr. Ventura told The Sun, "Right now, I think we're holding our own in a bigger pond. There is more awareness of our program by high school students, and we're able to attract quality people with our school [academics] and our golf," he said.
Marty Kelly, assistant athletic director at Loyola College, is an old friend and colleague.
"We go back a long way, and if you had a problem with Doc, it was you staring in the mirror," Mr. Kelly said.
"He was so well liked and would do anything for you. That was the nature of his personality," he said. "If you did something for him, he gave back 10 times over. That was the essence of who he was."
Mr. Kelly said there are "thousands of Loyola alumni who could say that. He's in our Hall of Fame because he deserved it. They don't make them like Dr. Ventura anymore."
Rick McClure, the Loyola tennis coach, arrived at the college in 1979.
"Doc took me under his wings and taught me what Loyola stood for. What a coach's responsibilities were," Mr. McClure said. "He was all about giving kids a positive experience, and he did that every day when he came on campus. His life was Loyola."
Dr. Ventura and Mr. McClure shared an office for a decade.
"I remember when his team was ranked 36th nationally in 1993. He built a team that wasn't a year-round team or even fully funded. He simply built it on pride," Mr. McClure said.
He recalled a moment at a 1993 sports banquet when Dr. Ventura was given an award.
"I'll never forget it. He stood up and said 11 words: 'I was Loyola. I am Loyola. I will always be Loyola,' and then sat down," Mr. McClure said. "No one could describe Doc better than that."
Allen Wronowski, head golf professional at Hillendale Country Club and vice president of the Professional Golf Association of America, is also an old friend.
"Mike was a great man and was an outstanding figure in the golfing community. He loved working with and developing youth golfers," Mr. Wronowski said. "He was warm, gracious and very personable and always had time for people."
Baltimore County District Judge Darrell Russell Jr., who had been a student at Loyola and later coached cross country and tennis during the 1970s, was a Wiltondale neighbor of Dr. Ventura's.
"I took up golf later in life and went over to his house one day. The next thing I knew, we were in his car and on the way to the Country Club of Maryland, where he showed me how to hold the club and gave me other tips," he said.
"When he was teaching golf, he was very patient and never the least bit superior. He was a great guy," Judge Russell said.
A resident of Edenwald since 2006, Dr. Ventura was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Hillendale Country Club and the Towson Elks Club.
He also enjoyed duckpin bowling, dancing, skiing and painting.
He was a longtime communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday in the chapel at Stella Maris Hospice.
Also surviving are two other sons, Patrick J. Ventura of Crofton and Robert J. Ventura of Eldersburg; and four grandchildren.