POIPU – Three months ago, Rich Beem found himself in a rather improbable position, in a tournament he would improbably win, in a major chase that to most professional golfers carries a prodigious level of improbability.
And after just three PGA tournament victories and four years on tour, Beem fits himself among the elite foursome playing in the 2002 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, alongside seasoned champions Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Davis Love III.
Does he feel a little out of place?
“I don’t have any expectations of winning,” Beem told reporters one day before capturing the PGA Championship at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. “I don’t discount the fact that I can play with these guys,” he said, “but to win a major you have to have something special, and I don’t know if I have it.”
At that point, Beem was trailing Leonard in second place and was two shots ahead of Woods. The next day, he closed with a 68 and finished at 10-under-par 278. He hit a 7-wood 271 yards to within seven feet for an eagle on the par-5 11th hole to seize control. Then, he put the finishing touches on a fearless round by rolling in a 35-foot birdie putt on No.16 to officially snuff a charge from Woods, who had finished with four consecutive birdies.
Beem may still not think he has something special, but he can admit something special happened to him that day at Hazeltine.
“I had no expectations,” Beem said after his unlikely victory. “I never expected this.”
Woods, who lost to Beem by one stroke, hardly agreed.
“He just trusted and believed in himself and he got the job done,” he said. “Sometimes it may be a benefit to be a little naive in a situation.”
Beem’s story, which takes him from his job as a stereo salesman to uneasy assistant pro to PGA Champion, has been amply proclaimed during his run at the PGA Championship in television and print media. He’s been labeled “Tiger Tamer,” the new “People’s Champion,” and “The Pepto Kid.”
Beem, who lives in El Paso, Texas, was born in Phoenix the year 1970. He graduated from the University of New Mexico, where he played collegiate golf for all four years. Beem turned professional in 1994, and joined the tour in 1999.
Other than his first major, Beem won the Kemper Open and the 2002 Sprint International, each in 1999.
To date, he has earned $3.9 million
The Skinny –
Where: Poipu Bay Golf Course
When: Nov. 25-27
Who’s playing: Tiger Woods, Rich Beem, Justin Leonard and Davis Love III.
Tickets: $10 for the Pro Am, $20 for first round play (Nov. 26), $20 for final round play (Nov. 27), or $40 for season tickets covering all three days.
To get tickets: Call 1-800-PGA-TCKT or online at www.PGA.com.
PGA Preview Schedule
Today: Rich Beem
Friday: Davis Love III
Saturday: Justin Leonard
Sunday: Tiger Woods