17 Years after His Improbable Win, Rich Beem Keeps Showing Up at PGA Championship
Rich Beem's rise from obscurity to win the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota was followed almost as quickly as a fall back into obscurity.
Beem's winning resume is pretty thin. Just two victories on PGA Tour in his career - the 1999 Kemper Open and The International in 2002 to go with the one major.
But one thing is certain - when the best players in golf tee it up this week (May 16-19) at the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage, New York, the former champ will be in the field.
The former assistant golf professional at Westward Ho Country Club (now The Country Club of Sioux Falls) in the early 90s is back despite making the cut at the PGA just once in the last six years (2016, when he finished tied for 73rd).
So why does he keep showing up when he has little chance of winning? Three reasons.
Most importantly, he says he plays because he can. All former PGA Championship winners have an exemption to enter the event until they hit age 65.
Secondly, he'll already be at Bethpage for his other job - a TV commentator for Sky News and CBS Sports.
But as for playing, Beem's lack of success since winning 17 years ago (11 missed cuts in the last 15 PGA Championships) led to a time a few years ago when he was ready to admit he didn't belong in the field anymore.
Until he was talking with David Duval one day.
Beem tells Golfweek magazine that the 2001 British Open champ told him he continues to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean each year because he earned that spot and he isn't giving it back.
That sentiment hit home with Beem.
'I still love playing. I feel like I always have a decent chance of making the cut. I don’t feel like I’m going out there to embarrass myself or I wouldn’t play. Last year I shot 74-69. To me, that’s good playing. Now whether it’s good enough to make the cut is another thing.'
So when you watch the 2019 PGA Championship this week, there's a good chance you won't see Rich Beem's name anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, but Beem will be out there nonetheless, no doubt reminiscing about that time at Hazeltine in 2002 when he hoisted the Wanamaker trophy after holding off none other Tiger Woods in the final round.
I wonder whatever happened to that guy?