Defending a major championship against the strongest field in golf is something Rich Beem has looked forward to for nearly a year now. But, when you know there's a more important off-course commitment awaiting you, it's difficult to focus on one's game.
Beem, who stunned the golf world a year ago when he won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., is an expectant father. His wife, Sara, is due to deliver a baby boy on Aug. 16, which falls on the third round of the 85th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
"Hopefully, I will be here to defend my Championship, but I have a new addition on the way, and hopefully he'll either come really early or really late," said Beem, while appearing June 30, at Oak Hill at the 85th PGA Championship Media Day.
"I will be doing the same thing as Phil Mickelson did years ago [1999 in the U.S. Open]. We are going to induce early, and if we can't, I'll keep playing until that pager goes off and I'm just going to politely say 'good-bye' and head on out."
The 85th PGA Championship is Aug. 14-17, and will be contested on Oak Hill's East Course, which has hosted, among other major events, the 1995 Ryder Cup Matches.
At that time, Beem was unemployed and watching the most compelling event in golf on television from his home in Seattle, Wash. A month later, Beem said, he was "gainfully employed at Magnolia Hi-Fi" selling such items as cellular phones.
Now, Beem can reflect on having achieved a dream, and awaits another with the birth of a son.
"Fortunately, I can play in as many PGAs as I would like to for the rest of my life, though I hope I won't be out here at the age of 85 trying to give them grief," said Beem of the lifetime exemption for past PGA Champions. "But, I'm not too sure how many more kids I'm going to have, so I'm definitely going to be home to watch the birth of my first child. It's going to be fantastic. There will be no decision-making. I've already made up my mind."
Provided that he can fulfill his ambition to compete in the PGA Championship, Beem must deal with a lackluster year. He is ranked 81st in earnings ($443,049), has made nine of 17 cuts, yielding one top-10 finish last February at the Nissan Open and is ranked 155th in putting and has a 71.42 scoring average.
"I think I'm really close to playing well again," said Beem, "and when that day comes around, I'm going to embrace it because it's tough right now not holing the putts that you think you should make and struggling just a little bit.
"I think when my game finally does turn around, it will be worth it again. I do this every year, though. I struggle and then finally have some good tournaments and then go back to struggling again. So, give it a name."
Perhaps one could call it "Off-Beem Syndrome." Whatever the malady or the label, it has been troubling to Beem, who openly discussed his frustration.
"A lot of people call my win a fluke," said Beem of his PGA Championship victory. "And, I'm going to give you the honest answer, because I've been thinking about it for awhile. I'm going to say yes, my career has been a fluke. It would be like a guy who works at a printing press for a couple of years and about five years later he writes a Pulitzer prize-winning novel. That's kind of how my career has been.
I've gone from making $15,000 as a very bad assistant golf professional, to winning the ultimate as far as major championships go in golf. I am very streaky, but when I am good, I am very good. Unfortunately, on the flipside of that, when I'm not playing so well, I'm just as bad as everybody else."
Beem said his PGA Championship yielded much memorabilia, and one of the perks was earning a berth in the season-ending PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Kauai, Hawaii.
Last year, Beem wore hand-painted shoes bearing the likeness of a hula dancer and had custom-made woods.
"They are sitting in my garage waiting for me to get to Kauai and play in the Grand Slam of Golf," said Beem. "That's where they are and they are waiting. Very patiently, I must say, but they are waiting there. Just a nice little shoe bag, sitting."