The Succulence of Success


If I win tomorrow, it will feel like Ive risen from the dead. Friends and fans of golf were happy to hear those words from Chip Beck Saturday evening in Omaha, Neb., because they signified a rebirth of sorts for a beloved former star whose game has taken him on a trip to golfing purgatory. Fortunately, and hopefully, Sundays third-place finish can give Beck at least the boarding pass on the return portion of his trip.
While the significance of his finish is subjective, the fact is that Chip Beck played in the final pairing of the premiere Tour tournament, with a chance to win. At one point seven shots off the lead early in the round, Beck rallied to within one through 16 holes. The details of his ultimate third-place finish arent nearly as significant as the type of golf he played on the back nine, and the confidence he displayed in doing so.

I had the opportunity to watch Beck play the final 13 holes of his round, and it was difficult for me to notice any difference between the Chip Beck of last week, and the Chip Beck of three Ryder Cups and four PGA Tour victories. He was undoubtedly the fan favorite as there were shouts of support from all corners of the Champions Club on Sunday. But the most poignant moment of the day was when he tapped in on the final hole in front of the most impressive gallery on the tour.
After just narrowly missing a putt to tie for the lead (at the time), he tapped in to a standing ovation. His fellow-competitors Tommy Biershenk and Jay Delsing stopped in their tracks as well, and joined in the gallerys applause. It would be nearly impossible to duplicate the collective emotion of everyone in attendance. And the effect if had on Chip was evident. One look in his ever-optimistic eyes and you could see no trace of a man who once missed 47 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour. After spending most of his career as a threat to win any tournament, he registered no official earnings on the PGA Tour in 2001. His best finish on this years Buy.Com Tour was a tie for 55th; one of only two cuts he had made leading up to Omaha. At least for now, however, it looks as though Chip is back, and hopefully for good.
I cant tell you how good that was to see, said Jay Delsing. Ive seen Chip play as good as anyone in the world, and Ive witnessed Chip play as bad as any professional golfer could ever play. It just great to see him playing good again.
Delsings and Becks path to the wasnt all that dissimilar.
Delsing began a long and relatively successful PGA Tour career in 1985 as a highly-touted player from UCLA. His best season came in 1992 when he finished 52nd on the money list. After losing his exempt status, he, like Beck, accepted the challenge of working his way back to the Tour through the Buy.Com Tour. Not an easy thing to do according to Curt Byrum, our analyst for the week. I give them both a lot of credit for swallowing their pride and playing the Buy.Com Tour, Curt said. And his point was that players on the PGA Tour refer to playing on the Buy.Com Tour as going to play back down on the Buy.Com Tour.
Jay earned his first-ever PGA Tour-sanctioned victory last year at the Buy.Com Ft. Smith Classic. It was an emotional win for Jay and he was very open about it at the time. Just think what it must be like to play your whole career, lose your status on Tour, and have to wonder in your own heart if you have what it takes to win. And imagine the feeling of relief the instant all those doubts and demons are exorcised.
Although chasing the second victory probably cant compare to the first, in this case it might have been pretty close.
All week long, Jay had a tribute to a good friend on his hat in the form of his initials - JFB. Although the entire city of St Louis, not to mention the entire baseball community have paid tribute to Jack Buck, it was a little more significant for Jay.
Jays father has also been ill. In fact, Jim Delsing was in the same hospital with Buck before he passed. And to see Buck, a good friend of the Delsing family, die while watching his fathers condition deteriorate has taken an emotional toll on Jay. The tribute to Buck was on display for all to see, but the tribute to his father required a closer look.
Jay marks his golf balls with the number 24, the number his father wore during his Major League Baseball career. Jay does many things to remind him that golf is only a game while hes in the heat of the battle. Hes carries a ball marker that reminds him of his three daughters, as well as a few other trinkets. But its that 24 on his Titliest that provided some much needed inspiration on Sunday.
After bogeying the tough par-4 15th, Delsing missed a 7-foot par putt on the 16th. Delsing followed that by hitting what he called a real stinker of a putt for birdie on 17 that would have given him a one stroke lead over Anthony Painter who had just finished at 20-under-par. Delsing now seemed to be feeling the heat. After playing so smart and so good for the entire tournament, that putt on 17 looked very nervous. And now he had to play the 18th with shaken nerves and without the lead.
The 18th hole is a perfect finishing hole. With its amphitheater setting and huge galleries, its always ready for great drama. A relatively long uphill par-4 with a choice of two fairways from the tee, the 18th is perfect because its definitely birdieable, but it doesnt take much of a slip to make bogey either. So the scene was set for another exciting conclusion in Omaha.
Jay hit one of his best drives of the week, long and straight, leaving him with just 142 yards to the hole and a pitching wedge in his hands. From the fairway its tough for the players to see just how close the ball is to the hole, but in Omaha thats not a problem. When Jays ball checked-up about six feet left of the hole, they roared, and Jay knew he had a putt to win from roughly the same distance he had missed on the previous two holes.
After the ovation for Beck, and Biershenk was finished, it came down to Jay Delsing, his nerves, his putter, and a six-footer. But Jay wasnt alone. As he remarked his ball and lined up his putt, there was a myriad of thoughts crossing his mind. However, they all seemed to settle when he noticed that number 24 on his ball. His thoughts went to his ailing dad, and he said to himself, I really want to make this one for you, Dad.
Jay Delsing conquered his nerves and won the 2002 Omaha Classic. Chip Beck conquered his demons and finished third. And Jim Delsing got to watch on TV as his son found the selfless perspective to win one for dear ol dad. Congratulations all.
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