Olin Dutra (second from left) posed with other prominent golfers including legendary PGA Professional Walter Hagen (second from right) right before he won the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
Olin Dutra, Chick Harbert, Bob Rosburg and Rich Beem – four players from four distinctly different golf eras – earned their places in history thanks to their performances in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
By Roger Graves, PGA.com Contributor
Only a golf historian of the highest pedigree could identify the common thread that binds Olin Dutra, Chick Harbert, Bob Rosburg and Rich Beem – four touring professionals from four distinctly different golf eras. Or, perhaps a centurion who spent his life as a golf volunteer in Minnesota would recognize that Dutra, Harbert, Rosburg and Beem each recorded their first major championships by winning the PGA Championship in Minnesota within exactly 70 years.
Dutra and Harbert won their PGA Championships, in 1932 and 1954, during the match-play era of the Championship at Keller Golf Club in St. Paul. Rosburg, who enjoyed a three-decade career as an on-course commentator for ABC Sports after his playing days, collected the only major title of his illustrious career in 1959 at Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park. That 1959 victory by Rosburg came in the second PGA Championship contested via stroke play, which has been the format to determine the PGA Champion since 1958.
Forty-three years after Rosburg came from six shots off the lead in the final round to win the PGA Championship in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," Beem authored his own fairytale finish while engraving his name on the coveted Wanamaker Trophy in 2002 at Hazeltine National Golf Club, which hosts its second PGA Championship this week.
Beem Prevails at Hazeltine
The story of Beem's triumph at Hazeltine in 2002 is particularly compelling, and perhaps the most memorable since it remains the most recent major championship conducted in Minnesota. His rise to victory smacked of a Walter Mitty fantasy for multiple reasons. First, just a few years prior to his Hazeltine heroics, Beem was working as a $7-per-hour stereo and cell phone salesman in Seattle. That was 1995, and Beem wasn't playing any professional golf after a solid college career playing for his father, Larry, at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M. He was appearing in just his fourth major, posting a tie for 70th in the 1999 PGA Championship, so Rich Beem wasn't exactly scaring the daylights out of anyone before the 2002 PGA Championship.
Second, Beem would have to beat both third-round leader Justin Leonard and the always-charging, major-hungry Tiger Woods to win the 2002 PGA Championship. With nine holes to play, Tiger rallied to within a single shot of Beem. So, with Tiger busy birdieing the final four holes on Sunday, who would you bet on?
Third, despite winning The International in Colorado on the PGA Tour two weeks earlier to qualify for the 84th PGA Championship, the good-natured Beem was so nervous on the first tee on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2002, that he plucked a bottle of Pepto-Bismol from his golf bag and took a big swig.
But intimidated or overwhelmed? Not at all. Beem maintained his aggressive, attacking modus operandi from the first three rounds, fashioned a highly competent 68, and outlasted Woods for a one-shot victory at 10-under-par 278.
"This really is a fairytale; I had no expectations of winning," admitted Beem, just moments after posing with the Wanamaker Trophy in 2002. "Like everyone else, I've thought about what it would mean to win the PGA Championship, but I never really expected it to happen."
Prior to the 2002 season, Beem was perhaps best known as the subject of the book "Bud Sweat and Tees," a tell-all guide to golf detailing how a once-promising professional was squandering his potential one beer at a time. But in '02, Beem began exhibiting the power, poise and aplomb on the golf course characteristic of John Daly in his heyday.
Despite his previous travails, Beem entered 2002 confident. When he finished fourth at Doral, he told his wife, Sara, to quit her job and travel the Tour with him full-time. Then, when he won The International, Beem hosted a celebration back at El Paso Country Club that his friends and club members would never forget – until Beem returned to El Paso a couple of weeks later with the Wanamaker Trophy, a "major" pedigree of his own, and a PGA Championship story to tell that rivaled that bit of legend and lore authored by Daly, when he won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate in 1991.
Beem worked his way into contention through three rounds at Hazeltine in 2002 on rounds of 72, 66 and 72 to join Leonard in the final pairing of the closing round. But most eyes were focused on Leonard and Woods. Leonard stood three swings superior to Beem and five better than Woods with 18 holes to play.
Loyal to his vow to stay aggressive, Beem hit driver on nearly every driving hole, hit fairways and greens in regulation with regularity, and putted better than anyone in the field. With Tiger a group ahead of him and Leonard by his side, Rich put it on high Beem.
He summoned the lead for the first time with a bogey on the tricky, par-3 eighth hole when Leonard hit his tee ball into the lake guarding the small green and made double bogey. Leonard, uncharacteristically struggling to hit fairways and greens, lost his three-shot advantage after four holes and bequeathed the stage quickly to Beem. The former British Open champion soared to a 77 on Sunday and shared fourth place with Fred Funk at 284.
A Beem-Woods Shootout
The 84th PGA Championship became a Woods-Beem shootout thereafter, with Tiger recording three front-nine birdies and two semi-miraculous par saves (including a chip-in for par on the first hole) to vault into contention. With nine holes to play, Woods had tiptoed to within a single swing of Beem. Then, inexplicably, Woods wavered while Beem seized control.
Beem transformed a one-stroke advantage into a six-stroke lead over Woods in a matter of four holes. The first highlight came on the 597-yard, par-5 11th hole, where Tiger had failed to reach the green in two in the group ahead. Beem had 248 yards to the front and 271 to the pin, but blasted his 7-wood second shot over a vast collection of bunkers, landed it on the green, and didn't stop yelling for it to "get close" until it was seven feet from the hole. He let his putter do the rest, expertly negotiating the eagle putt to advance to 10 under par.
Now behind by three, Woods three-putted from 12 feet on No. 13 after hearing the immense ovation for Beem's eagle and missed the green and bogeyed the 14th. Suddenly, Tiger trailed by six shots when he arrived on the 15th tee.
But he wasn't conceding anything. In a Ripley's Believe It or Not finish, Woods birdied every hole coming in, sinking a six-footer at 15; a 12-footer at 16; a 10-footer at 17; and a six-footer at 18.
Aware that Tiger was making a move in front of him, but unaware just how quickly Woods was closing the gap, Beem stepped to the tee at the diabolical 16th hole and rocketed his 7-wood to the middle of the fairway. As his 9-iron approach hesitated over Hazeltine Lake, Beem breathed a deep sigh of relief when it found a dry perch on the green 35 feet from the flag. Then he curled in the 35-foot putt for birdie to regain control of his fairytale finish.
"I was as committed to that tee shot as any I've ever hit," said Beem. "That tee shot and birdie on 16 were big, the biggest I've ever faced."
Beem's success on 16 made Tiger’s birdie at the 18th hole moments later academic. It also rendered meaningless Beem's cautious bogey at the final hole when he took three to get down from the front of the green. His closing 68 was enough to hold off Woods, and the former stereo and cell phone salesman was the 2002 PGA Champion. His fairytale week was complete.
Rosburg Rallies for 1959 Victory
Bob Rosburg thought he was destined to finish second in his second major championship of 1959 at Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park. Rosburg, who had finished runner-up to Billy Casper in the 1959U.S. Open a few weeks earlier, composed weekend rounds of 68 and 66, but Jerry Barber appeared to have the 1959 PGA Championship in his grasp with three holes to play. Rosburg, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., opened the final round six shots behind Barber but recorded five birdies on the front nine for a record-tying 30.
Barber, playing three holes behind Rosburg, birdied the 15th hole to take a one-stroke lead and Rosburg thought he had missed his chance for his first major title. However, with Rosburg refusing to watch the finish on television in the clubhouse, Barber bogeyed the final two holes to give Rosburg the one-shot triumph. Rosburg's first-place check was $8,250, a princely sum in 1959.
Harbert Secures 1954 Title
Chick Harbert of Northville, Mich., was another underdog at Keller Golf Club for the 1954 PGA Championship. A runner-up in 1947 and 1952, Harbert found himself in an elite match-play bracket that featured medalist Ed "Porky" Oliver, Jerry Barber, Sam Snead, Tommy Bolt and Walter Burkemo – all future or former major championship winners.
But Harbert outlasted Bolt 1-up in a dramatic 39-hole semifinal shootout and defeated defending PGA Champion Burkemo on the 37th hole in the final to have his name engraved on the coveted Wanamaker Trophy as the 36th PGA Champion. After Burkemo won three of the initial four holes in the final, Harbert played the next 29 holes in 8 under par and allowed Burkemo to win only one hole the rest of the match.
Dutra Wins in 1932
You might say Olin Dutra was the Rich Beem of his time. When he arrived at Keller Golf Club in St. Paul for the 1932 PGA Championship, Walter Hagen, Horton Smith, Henry Picard, Paul Runyan, Craig Wood and Bobby Cruickshank were the overwhelming favorites, but none of the era's "name" players survived the rigorous match-play format to advance to the 36-hole Championship final. In one of the greatest comebacks in PGA Championship history, Cruickshank, however, did orchestrate one of the greatest comebacks in PGA Championship history, overcoming a 9-down deficit against Al Watrous through 22 holes to win nine of the
next 11 holes and eventually score a 1-up victory on the 41st hole when Watrous missed a three-foot putt.
Dutra, of Santa Monica, Calif., was the low qualifier for the 32-player match-play championship at 140 and played 196 holes over the six days of the Championship in an astonishing 19 under par to secure his first of two major championships (he also won the 1934 U.S. Open by a stroke over Gene Sarazen at Merion). Dutra, who had advanced to the match-play quarterfinals in 1927 before falling to Al Espinosa, defeated Frank Walsh 4-and-3 in the 36-hole finale for the '32 Championship. Runner-up Walsh was a profile in courage, rebounding from a fractured skull suffered in an automobile accident eight weeks earlier to advance to his first PGA final.
Editor's Note: This story appears courtesy of The 91st PGA Championship Journal.