The PGA Championship

Interview with Rich Beem

August 13, 2003

Julius Mason: Defending champion Rich Beem, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 85th PGA Championship.

Rich, welcome to Rochester.

Rich Beem: No, this is not Rochester, this is Pittsford.

Julius Mason: And on behalf of the Pittsford Chamber of Commerce, I have a feeling you are going to be wearing a logo by the end of the week from that community.

I understand you had a very interesting evening last night, sharing it with some very special people.

Rich Beem: Yeah, we had a great time at the Champions Dinner. There was about 50 people there, about 14 past champions were there. It was a very lovely evening. My hat is off, once again to Cafe Central, the restaurant of choice from El Paso, Texas. They did a beautiful job on the meal. It was a very special evening. One of the great perks about winning this great championship is you're going to come back every year and attend the dinner. So it was a lot of fun.

Q: You seem like you're enjoying fatherhood. We saw you yesterday at the clinic handing out cigars and pictures of your son. How difficult is it to pull yourself away and be here this week?

Rich Beem: Oh, it's very difficult. It's been about eight days now since I last saw him. It's no fun. Thank goodness we have the Internet and my wife is able to e-mail me some pictures so that I can look at him every day.

He's getting big. He was about seven pounds, eight ounces yesterday when she saw the doctor and he's eating like a horse. That's good, nice and healthy. It's tough being away from him and I'll see him next week. That will be great. I can't wait.

Q: When you were walking the fairways today, you had a lot of people cheering for you; how much attention, if any, were you receiving at this point last year, and how much of that would you get?

Rich Beem: Well, I was playing last year, played a practice round Tuesday with J.D., Fuzzy, Robert Gomez, Pat Perez and myself, and I think someone said, "Who is that other little guy down there, that short kid?"

I actually got some recognition last year because I was coming off a win last year at The INTERNATIONAL, so I was getting some reaction, but clearly, obvious, nowhere near this. Crowds have been great. Same as last year at Minnesota, number-wise. But it's a little more boisterous crowd, a little more vocal. It's a New York crowd, what can I say.

But they have been great and they have been very supportive and I've enjoyed them.

Q: Before the two victories last year, after the book came out, Blood, Sweat and Tees, did you have any experience where there was some fan interest off the book, even though to the public as a whole, they did not know your name yet?

Rich Beem: I'm not going to comment on the book. I'm just going to let you know that. I won't comment on that. It's just something I'm not interested in doing.

Julius Mason: Was the question about fan interest prior to the book?

Q: On the heels of your first win, during that time between, what was the situation as far as the peaks and valleys as far as fan interest; you came in with the big interest and there was probably a lot of following right after that.

Rich Beem: Yeah, right after I won the Kemper in '99, I got recognized a little bit, but when you win on the Tour, unless you win something really major and something big right away, yeah, you won a PGA TOUR event. At the time, I thought, hey, this is the greatest thing ever, which it was at the time.

And now that the notoriety has increased, some days I wish I could go back to, hey, when I could walk around the golf course, come in under the radar just a little bit. The fans have always taken to me, just because my interviews, I seem like a normal every day kind of guy, which I like to think of myself as being.

So I think some of the fans can relate to my background, my career and say, oh, being out of golf the longest time and just working.

I think fans have already taken an interest in me and just didn't know who I was at the time. Now that I'm a little more known, everybody screams at me, including my wife.

Q: Speaking of normal, have you kicked your Pepto Bismol habit, or do you still chug down a little bit before every round?

Rich Beem: Chug down a little Pepto Bismol before every round and have a golf towel to prove it.

I still drink it because I eat some foods -- almost every food doesn't agree with it. I take a little bit of it because it settles my stomach down so I don't have to use the restroom all the time.

Q: More golfers, including yourself, have made the PGA their first major than any of the other three. I'm interested in your thoughts on why that is so. And once you win that first major, how much does it do in terms of your confidence level, especially to someone like you who had already won a tournament?

Rich Beem: First part of that question, I'd have to say probably because it's a major that -- I hope this comes out right. This major is kind of a combination of all of them. It doesn't have the aura or the mystique of the Masters so much.

The British Open, being rich with tradition, the longest-standing major championship, and the U.S. Open is always set up so brutally hard that you know that even par is going to be to be a great score. But this combines all of them. We talked about this last night at the Champions Dinner. This championship is probably, golf course setup-wise, I would say probably the most fair. The greens are not nearly as severe as they are at Augusta but they are quick. The rough is not as brutal as a U.S. Open but it's thick, and the British Open is just the British Open; a great championship.

I think this, for first-time players, is probably easier because I think not so much the conditions, but there's not such a huge hype about it. Like I said, I don't want this to come out wrong because obviously as far as I'm concerned, it's the greatest championship we've played, because it combines everything wonderful about the other three tournaments.

So I think that it lends itself to first-time winners probably more so than the others.

What was second part of the question? Oh, confidence. Yeah, as far as a player goes, playing standpoint, obviously it's going to boost my confidence in direction. But I think more for myself, it's done wonders for my personal life, as well. I'm more at ease talking with others, especially my peers out here. I feel more comfortable being on the driving range, playing in front of huge crowds and things of that nature.

Just on a personal level, it's easier for me to -- I feel so much more comfortable with myself and what I do than I ever have before in my life. It's a great feeling to have and it's a great position to be in for me.

Q: Reflect on how you handled everything that came at you after you won the PGA Championship, a lot of endorsements, pressures, things like that, and what advice might you give someone like a Ben Curtis who is probably going through a lot of the same things you went through?

Rich Beem: I'm not really going to comment on Ben Curtis because I probably will just talk to him person to person. I don't think that the media is the time nor the place to give him advice.

But, you know, I think I handled everything fairly well. Unfortunately, they don't give you an instruction booklet on what to do after you win a major championship for the first time. I took everything, I think, fairly well in stride. I think there were times where it got very overwhelming, as far as from a media standpoint and people commenting on your game constantly, good, bad or indifferent.

As far as going and chasing the money last year, I've got no regrets about that. I'll go back and chase it again if the offers are still available. I used to make fun of the guys that go into the silly season events, but that's because I wasn't invited. Now that I'm invited, hey, I'm going to get the money. (Laughs).

Hey, I don't have any regrets from that standpoint. I think I've handled everything fairly well. I've tried to be a positive representation of a PGA champion and hope I've done a good job over the year. You'd have to ask M.G. Orender.

Q: The 17th and 18th are the two hardest finishing holes you've ever played?

Rich Beem: Back-to-back, yeah, they are. I mean, 17 I think is almost 500 yards. And 18 is all of 470. I hit 5-iron into both of those greens today that's because I hit great drives off the tee box.

The champion is going to come down and if he pars those two holes, if somebody is in the lead, I'm pretty sure he won't lose it. It's two great holes, back-to-back. And it's all you want. You've got to step up there, you've got to be positive, you've got to believe in your swing, you've got to believe in yourself and just hit them. You can't get too wrapped up in how hard this hole is, or golly, this is too tough. That's what major championships are supposed to be, they are supposed to be tough.

Q: This time last year, you did to Tiger Woods in a major what Tiger Woods usually does to others in a major to your great credit. Given what has happened since, do you feel what you did at Hazeltine acted as a wake-up call to the rest of the Tour?

Rich Beem: I don't know. I think you might have to ask some of the other guys. I think I probably proved to everybody that if you stick to your guns and you stick to your game, then, you know, he's going to have to play some great golf to beat you.

Johnny Miller has always commented, I don't know if this is correct terminology, but, we are a bunch of pansies and we roll over when Tiger gets in the hunt and we just give him tournaments.

I think we have gotten more comfortable with him around and him up on the leaderboard. We all know that we've got a lot of game. I think that's why you see the winners that we've produced this year. Tiger is always going to win his fair share of golf tournaments. There's just no stopping that. But, you know, it's not so much a case of we are just going to give it to him anymore. He's going to earn them and I think he knows that and he's stepped up his game, as well.

Q: To move from last year to this year, how is your game right now and what do you feel about your chances this week?

Rich Beem: I'm hitting the ball better than I ever have in my life. I'm swinging at it great. I'm very comfortable with every part of my game, where I thought last year it had weaknesses. I still have weaknesses but they are not so dramatic.

I don't think this year -- and as far as my chances go, if I can get a little confidence out there, first nine, or maybe even first 18 holes out there and get a good, solid round up, then it remains to be seen. But it's going to be a tough day tomorrow, playing with Tiger and David and the huge crowds. I don't mind playing in front of the big crowds but they are going to be vocal and boisterous and it's going to be different. I'll be nervous, but I'm excited about it, as well. I kind of like my chances.

I've never disliked my chances -- well, I disliked my chances on Friday of last week when Davis already had 36 points and I had 4. Then I wasn't too sure about them.

Q: Reflecting back to the days right after you won the Kemper, did you ever think you would evolve into the kind of golfer, as well as where you are in your personal life, looking back to those days?

Rich Beem: Yeah, as soon as I won the Kemper Open last year, I was with a friend of mine actually driving home from the golf course that evening. I was on such a high as everyone could imagine. I said to him, "I think I can do this again."

All of a sudden I have some pretty down years and almost lose my card in 2001. Then you kind of think, gosh, I just hope I make my card for the following year.

After the first one, I always thought that I could do it again because I've done it once, so I knew I could do it again. More than anything else, the last two wins have given me more of a calmness in my life.

Just achieving what I have, like I said, if I don't win another golf tournament never again in my life, I'm not going to walk away disappointed. Yeah, I might be disappointed, but I've had a great life on the golf course. I've gotten to meet tons of friends out here. I enjoy playing out here. It's fantastic and like I said, being out here and being a Major Champion makes me so much more comfortable with my personal life, it's almost eerie. But I never thought that I would get to this point this soon in my life.

Q: In terms of fatherhood, is that something that you've thought about back a couple years ago as something that was going to happen sometime down the road?

Rich Beem: I always knew that I was going to be a father some day, but to be real honest with you, I wasn't too sure how I was going to handle it up until the day he was born. I just wasn't too sure of what to do. We didn't read any books. We didn't go to any La Maz classes.

I didn't know what to expect. Literally, I'm making this up as I go along as a father, but I mean as soon as he was born, I mean, it was -- I knew my one goal and my sole purpose in life was to take care of my life and this child. Whenever I'm at home -- whenever I get to the golf course I'm so beat up because I'm sitting there cleaning the house every day. My wife still cooks, thank goodness, but I'm finally doing laundry, which I hate to do laundry, and I'm sitting there doing all the washing.

I'm just taking care of them, and to me, it feels so good to do that. Like I said, I never knew how I was going to react up until the day that Michael was born, and now I know.

Q: You've mentioned boisterous a couple of times referring to the crowd. You sound like you prefer a boisterous crowd. Do you think in this day and age, not just in golf, but fans can go overboard sometimes and have you heard any of that this week?

Rich Beem: Fans can go overboard every so often. Yeah, I heard a little something that happened to me but I won't comment on it because I don't think it's necessary.

Yeah, there are times when fans can get a little too rowdy. We are out there trying to work, trying to do our job and we are trying to learn as much about the golf course as we can. Between the holes we have all of these autographs to sign and I want to sign them because I think it's the right thing to do. But it's tough. You can't sit there and sign them all. I mean, I've got to go to work. This is my job. I want to take care of the fans because the fans take such good care of us, and this is why we are here playing because everybody is coming out and supporting us.

It does get a little difficult at times trying to make everybody happy. And obviously I'm not going to be able to sit there and sign every autograph that people want. There's just not enough daylight to do that. So I hope that they understand what we are trying do to do. We are going out there and we are trying to win a major championship, and also keep them entertained as best we can.

First and foremost, this is our job and we have to take care of ourselves, first. Hopefully the fans understand that.

Q: Ben Curtis won a major in his first ever major. He said yesterday that he thought it would take 10 or 12 majors before he would contend and win. How many majors did you think it would take to contend before you won, and were you surprised to do it in your fourth career major?

Rich Beem: Like I said last year, I never even had dreams that big. If somebody would have told me I was going to win a major at any time in my career, I would be like, okay, I don't care how many tries it takes me, that's not important. (Laughing).

I can't say anything for Ben, but, you know, I just enjoy playing in them. My caddie and I, our main focus was always to try to get into the majors, because that's where you could get the World Ranking points to gain entry into other big events around the world. So our first and foremost goal was just to get into them. And then obviously winning it has been a complete -- I wouldn't say surprise, but it's been -- damn sure is close to a surprise as I've ever been in.

It's nice. You know, it's nice to have won one, and once you win one, there's no reason why you can't go win another one.

Q: Could you elaborate on being more at ease in your personal life; were you much more introverted than you are now?

Rich Beem: Oh, I've never been introverted at all. It's just, you know, having a conversation with -- there's no way I could ever have a conversation with Tiger Woods or anybody else without my tongue feeling about this big and getting about half of what I'm trying to say.

But, you know, or even having a conversation with anybody. Going into a room and you know that there's x, y and z successful people in there, I just never would feel comfortable going and talking to them. I would always be a little shy around them.

Around my friends, forget about it, I've always been an outgoing personality. But whenever I got into a very high social situation, I would never feel comfortable. But winning a major championship and just being on the PGA TOUR, people understand and respect that and that's nice to know, and that's why I'm a lot more comfortable with what I do and who I am.

Q: You mentioned The INTERNATIONAL and Davis running away with it; are you happy that that preceded this major where you got the experience of being the defending champ; will that help you this week?

Rich Beem: Probably somewhat. I'm disappointed with how I played, but just getting back on the road after being home for two weeks and pretty much not touching a golf club, at least not practicing very much, you know, you get up there to that atmosphere where you're up in the high mountains and you're just sucking wind every time you take a step, it is difficult. I wasn't as prepared as I was this week. I've been out here practicing a lot more this week than I did last week. Last week I was just trying to stay home and get as much rest as I possibly could. But I'm more prepared this week for everything, and I expect good things. You know, whether they happen or not remains to be seen, but it will damn sure be a lot of fun.

Q: When you're struggling now, is it more difficult because you're a major championship winner and you're supposed to perform better, and do you feel any pressure that way and how do you deal with it?

Rich Beem: Yeah, at the beginning of the year, I did put more pressure on myself than I probably should have, but I think that's just the nature; you always strive to become a better player than you were yesterday. I thought since I won a major championship, I thought damned sure I should be there every other week. That's probably never been my game and probably never will be unfortunately.

Now I deal with it, I'm probably more relaxed about it now. I've kind of, you know, just sat down and thought about everything, all of the great things that have happened to me over the last couple of years. I try not to get so down on myself for more than a period of a day or so because I am pretty hard on myself when I don't play well. I'm able to bounce back a little bit easier now. But the way I handle it now is I sit back, probably have a few beers, look at my bank account and laugh. (Laughter.) Going, how in the hell did I ever make this kind of money, and don't worry about it. That's probably one of the ways I deal with it. Everybody has their own way of dealing with it. I probably shrug it off a little bit easier nowadays, which is nice.

Q: You mentioned earlier that your one goal was to win a major at some point in your career; now that you've won one at such an early stage do you think the drive to win another has dissipated at all or is it the same or even greater?

Rich Beem: I'm an old man, I'll be 33 this year. Look at all of these young 20-year-olds we have out here.

No, the drive is still. I want to get in the mix again. I want to get in contention? Not only in a major but any tournament again. I finished runner-up to Tiger at the Western, but I would never say I was in contention. I was just kind of there.

You know, you always want to get into contention in a major. You find out a lot about yourself as a competitor and as a person, so I enjoy it. I enjoy being in high-pressure situations because in the end after it's all said and done, you give it 110% whether you win or lose, you can look at it and say, this is fun. I'm looking forward to playing well and winning these things and hopefully it will be this week.

Q: Used to like to play a lot more than practice. It sounds as though that's beginning to evolve; is that correct, you're practicing more?

Rich Beem: I'm practicing a little bit more because my timing has been off. Normally when I play a lot, my timing kind of finds itself, but I haven't even had time to play a lot. So I've had to kind of make up for that practice, so I do actually get out to play, finding my rhythm is a little bit easier.

Like I said, I haven't had a chance to play that much because when I'm on the road, I play every single day, and you just get tired. So when I go home for four or five days, I kind of lose all my rhythm that I've built up for so many weeks in advance. I have probably practiced a lot more the last couple of weeks -- or maybe the last four or five days than I have in a long time. I've been hitting a lot of golf balls, putting quite a bit, just trying to get some sort of rhythm out there.

But Vijay's in no danger of being dethroned.

Julius Mason: Defending PGA champion, Rich Beem. Good luck this week.

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