Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

LC native Rich Beem hasn’t lost his spunk

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg, The Batmobile lost a wheel and the joker got away. Hey!” It’s the third time that I’ve heard Rich Beem’s “leave a message” ditty and I’m wishing I didn’t have it memorized.

As I’m fine tuning my substi­tute article necessitated by not being able to interview Rich in time, he finally returns my call.

Originally, I thought that an ar­ticle about Rich Beem just prior to the New Year’s weekend was a no-brainer. What could be better than the an article about a guy that was once known as the party animal of the PGA Tour during the year’s most heartily celebrated holiday (at least in terms of alcohol con­sumption)?

And while Rich in no way de­nies the things Alan Shipter wrote in “Bud, Sweat and Tees: A Walk on the Wild Side of the PGA Tour in 2001,” he laugh­ingly says he hasn’t read it.

“But, the parts I’ve seen and heard about are pretty much ac­curate,” he said. “That was me then.” It’s not as though he wanted to avoid talking about those years, in fact, Rich seems to rel­ish the antihero worship that comes with those often out­landishly wild events.

Beem continues his remarks: “This is me now. Sure, there’s a time to have fun, and as a friend of mine says ‘Never threaten me with a good time.’ ” After a stretch of several years in playboy heaven, Rich married Sara Waide in 2001 and his wild ways were behind him, replaced by a more earnest commitment to his game — funny how you hear that about so many PGA tour players.

I had gotten Rich’s phone number from his dad, Larry who still lives here in Las Cruces. I asked Rich about his allegiance to Las Cruces as his home town. Rich is quick to af­firm his feeling that Las Cruces is home to him. His father’s job brought him here in 1998, and Rich attended Las Cruces High.

“I was a Bulldawg,” quips Beem. To which I reply “it could have been worse.” You get the feeling that Rich is never without a one-liner as he quick as a flash says, “Yeah, I could have been a Trojan.” No comment.

The telephone line drops.

Shortly he calls back, “Sorry about that, I’m out running some errands because Dad is on his way over for a visit (Rich currently lives in Austin, Texas) … I just hope that he’s bringing me some of Nopalito’s green chili salsa — can’t get enough of it.” In the past he’s indicated he’s from El Paso, but Las Cruces is home for him.

“I lived in Las Cruces for about 18 months after I went on tour, but after I won, my ac­countant told me I needed to move out of New Mexico.” I redirect the conversation back to his current life.

“I’ve got two kids now and, you know, when it’s time to work, that’s what I focus on.” But you get the feeling that Rich will never be a stick-in­the-mud. The Beem family has grown to include a young son (age 8) and daughter (age 6).

“Great age for Christmas,” I say. “You got that right,” replies Rich.

The twinkle in his voice speaks volumes.

Our conversation drifts back to his most memorable tourna­ment wins. He simply says, “I liked them all — the PGA is, well the PGA and the Kemper Open was my first and I kind of came out of nowhere — that was fun.” I said, “I liked The Interna­tional win the best, I vividly re­member watching it on TV when I was back in New Hampshire.” The International was a unique tournament that utilized a modified stableford scoring system. Points were awarded for a given score. The better the score for a given hole, the high­er the points, so while a birdie was worth 2 points, an eagle was plus 5, and a three-under­par double eagle a plus 8.

Rich graciously replies, “thank you.” He implies that he thought he had that one in the bag as he drove off the 18th tee and walked up the fairway. Sudden­ly, a huge crowd roar funnels up from the 17th. “David Fe­herty was walking along for the television coverage,” says Rich.

“I looked at him and put three fingers up for an eagle on the par 5. Feherty looks at me and shakes his head holding up two fingers, to which I gave him a shocked look and one finger (use your imagination). ” But Rich wasn’t derailed by Steve Lowery’s 8-point hole, as he holed his par and Lowery missed a six-footer on 18 to win. As you might imagine, Beemer is full of stories and in­teresting sidelights. When I asked him about the freak acci­dent at the 2000 MCI Classic in Memphis, he groans.

“You must have thought, ‘What the hell!’ ” I said.

A runaway cart hooked one of the gallery ropes and stakes were uprooted and flying everywhere. The rope whipped around and flipped Beem over, landing on his back and neck.

Rich said the medical staff was there immediately and he later learned that he had been unconscious for a couple of sec­onds. As he regained his focus, he realized that the EMTs were telling him not to move, that they were afraid he had broken his leg.

“As the EMT started to cut my pants leg to take a look, I re­membered that I didn’t have any underwear on. At the time, I only had 100 percent cotton slacks and the hot, humid Mem­phis weather was just killing me. I had decided to forego the underwear in hopes that I wouldn’t get so worn out at the end of the round,” Beem said.

“So they are trying to hold me down and as the scissors are coming up my leg I’m trying to stop them. Finally I just yelled out ‘don’t go any further,’ when they got past my knee.” Larry, Rich’s father, says that Rich didn’t really start playing much golf until Larry brought his family back to the U.S. from Germany in 1987. Rich really learned the game at White Sands as his Dad managed the course and served as golf pro­fessional.

Things didn’t go so well for Rich at Q-school this year as he needed to qualify for his tour card.

“Bad luck — I was on the wrong side of the pairings and got hit with 40 mph winds and a six-hour round,” he said.

I called Rich specifically to find out what his plans were now that he didn’t have his tour card. The answer to that ques­tion came fairly quickly in our talk as he told me he was get­ting ready to go to Johannes­burg, South Africa, for the first European tour event.

“I’ve still got full exempt sta­tus on the European tour.” At 41, Rich Beem may not have his best golf ahead of him, but you wouldn’t know that by what he says.

“I’m swinging the best I have all my life.” Even after major back surgery to take out part of a disk he’s as optimistic as always.

As Larry says, “he always thought he could do anything.”

 

A golf architect in New Hamp­shire for more than 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects and the executive di­rector for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Associa­tion. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://road­holeshorts17.wordpress.com/.

 

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