Beem Took All the Shots - and Won

RSS

This is a story about all the things that can go wrong in a tournament.
 
You are No. 154 in the world when the tournament starts. Playing at the 2002 International ' the event featuring a modified Stableford format ' you have only scored eight total points the past three years prior to this tournament. Your back seizes up on you before the final round, then during the round you encounter a long weather delay. To top it off, your main opponent goes bananas on the back nine and scores 14 points over the final five holes. You can do nothing but sit and watch, praying that this madness finally stops before its too late.
 
This story is also about the one thing that goes right in the championship. Rich Beem wins.
 
The eventual loser was Steve Lowery, but what a show he put on before he finally succumbed. Beem had shot the equivalent of 63 on Sunday, adding 19 points to his total the final day. It looked like an early coronation with Beem finishing in front of Lowerys group.
 
But whoa! Suddenly, here comes a tornado when you least expect it.
 
When Beem wrapped up the scoring with a five-point eagle at the 17th, he had 44 points and a fat nine-point bulge that should have allowed him the luxury of waiting for the victory ceremony in a grand style.
 
It had started with a faint stirring ' Lowery was on 14 and made birdie from a greenside pond after splashing one out of the drink.
 
You know, unless he comes back to me, (there is) really not much chance at all, confessed Lowery. Unless he really has a problem out there, you don't feel like you have that much of a chance. But like I say, you never know when you're going to make two eagles.
 
At the time, his birdie on 14 didnt seem too important to the final outcome, but then he eagled the 15th, holing a gap wedge from 127 yards.
 
Hmmm, thats five more points ' interesting, maybe. When he three-putted from 50 feet for bogey at the 16th, Beem breathed a little easier. That should have been Lowerys last gasp.
 
But wait ' now hes at the par-5 17th, swinging at his second shot with a 6-iron from 190 yards. The ball landed three feet from the hole, took a couple of hops ' and went in!
 
Ive never made double eagle, said Lowery. This is the first time. Yeah, (I was) shocked. The crowd's reaction, you could tell that it's close or when it goes in, you could tell and after I saw it go in on 14, you kind of get the idea of what they are going to do.
 
Lowery had a little sense of dj vu, a trip back in time to 1994 when he won this same International in a playoff over Rick Fehr. The shot at 17 he had had before.
 
I tell that you, that 6-iron shot was very eerie because I was in the same spot, he said. The wind was kind of blowing the same way, the shot took off and my caddie said, '94 ' if that's not good, there is no good. When the ball is in the air, I'm thinking the same thing ' and it goes in!
 
And what was on Beems mind when he heard the roar of the crowd back on 17, as Beem was playing the 18th, believing it was virtually his celebration?
 
I hit my second shot on 18 and I was walking up and then I saw David Feherty walking up on the right and I put three fingers up and I said, Did Lowery make three? And he goes, No. He said, Lowery made 2.

And I was like, Reeeaaally? So all of a sudden my nine-point lead goes down to one, and then I somehow gagged it in from ' the last putt lipped in, and it wasn't like it was center cup. But that's just the nature of this game.
 
And Lowery came to 18 with a most improbable scenario on his hands: he was that lone point in arrears, a birdie was worth two points, so he could win it all with a bird.
 
He hit a 7-iron approach after his drive, and it was very good ' up to 12 feet. Lowerys play had gotten Beems full attention by now.
 
When I was sitting there watching, I wasn't really thinking about anything, said Beem. I was thinking, Hey, there's nothing I can do, that I played as good as I can. It was out of my control. So that was probably the most frustrating.
 
But also, the most relieving thing was that, hey, I didn't have to go to a playoff if he makes or whatever, it's done, it's over with. It's such a long and hard day. Watching Steve have the opportunity to win was certainly one of the most stressful times of my life. But that's the way this format goes.
 
Now it was Lowerys turn to attempt the game-winner. He settled in, stroked it ' and watched it barely get past the lip.
 
I hit a good putt that just didn't break, said Lowery. And at the same time, Beem exhaled loudly. The final score was Beem 44, Lowrey 43.
 
I was grateful, relieved, said Beem. I can't even run through all of the emotions that were going through my body at that time. I was a little bit surprised, yes.
 
Beem rushed out to the green and he and Lowery embraced. One the greatest comebacks (Lowerys) had been thwarted. One of the most unbelievable performances (Beems) had been rewarded.
 
I just looked him in the eye and I was just smiling, said Beem. He was, too. I'm like, It doesn't get any better than that, does it?
 
That was great playing. He congratulated me on the same thing. It was wild. I mean, I tell you, besides Nicklaus and Watson during the last two rounds of the (1977) British Open, I don't know of any round where it's just gotten completely hairy like it did today.
 
'It was unbelievable.
 
Two weeks later, Rich Beem was winning the PGA Championship.