Beem Beams a Common Quality

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Tuesday night with Connie Chung. Wednesday morning with Matt Lauer. Next week? Perhaps David Letterman.
 
Few golfers not named Tiger Woods are wanted on the talk-show circuit, but when its Tiger you beat, wanted you are.
 
Its been an exhausting couple of days since Rich Beem held off the worlds No. 1 player en route to becoming the most improbable major champion in over a decade. But unlike John Daly, who won the 1991 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate, Beem doesnt wow crowds with a Thor-like TaylorMade. Rather, he impresses with another Daly-esque quality ' Everyman appeal.
 
Beem wears his emotions on his sleeve and speaks whats on his mind. He tells you a person like himself cant win one of golfs biggest titles ' and then he does.
 
He laughs. He smiles. He makes you do the same.
 
He does an impromptu jig when surpassing his own expectations. Hes got the common touch, because hes a commoner himself, except one with a major title to his credit.
 
Beem won last weeks PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., with a combination of dazzling desire and self-effacing manner.
 
I said (all week) I dont expect to win; nobody asked, Well do you think you can win?' he pointed out. Well, sure I think I can I can, if everything is going in the right direction for me.
 
And so it did, from start to finish. However, the journey to major champion wasnt one born from oblivion ' such as Dalys ' but it certainly had a circuitous route.
 
His career could be seen as the mirror opposite of Tigers. While Woods has followed an almost celestial path to greatness, Beem has bounced about like cosmic debris.
 
After struggling on the remote Dakotas Tour, the New Mexico State University grad took a job selling car stereos and cell phones in Seattle, Wash., making $7 an hour. It was during that time that he watched former college rival Paul Stankowski win the 1996 BellSouth Classic.
 
That kind of fired me up a little bit about golf again, Beem said last week.
 
It was death of a salesman and a return to the mini-tours where he didnt have much successand decided to go back to work at El Paso Country Club.
 
That didnt work out either.
 
I was not a very good assistant pro, he said. Im a terrible teacher ' Ive got no patience for it.
 
A terrible teacher perhaps, but an obvious talent ' so much so that El Paso Head Pro Cameron Doan insisted he quit his job and return to playing for a living.
 
In 1998, Beem finished eighth in the Qualifying Tournament and earned his PGA Tour card. The following year he won the Kemper Open. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into the realm of one-win wonders.
 
The reason I was so bad at the end of 99 and all of 2000, just because when I went home, I didnt do anything. I just sat on the couch and vegged, he explained.
 
I dont want to say I lost interest, but I certainly didnt give it my full attention like it needed to be.
 
I was pretty satisfied. I was kind of living high off of my win, just because everybody was coming up and congratulating me: Oh, I saw you win the Kemper, thats a great story, and I bought into it a little bit too much.
 
Finally I said I cant live off of that.
 
One reason for Beem's apathy was due to his residence. Being a PGA Tour winner, he felt he had to live the PGA Tour lifestyle. He moved to Phoenix, where he soon found playing practice rounds with his peers didnt compare to money games with his buddies.
 
Moving back to New Mexico certainly helped (my) focus, he lamented.
 
Focus intact, he won this years International in a captivating final round over Steve Lowery. One start later, he did the same at the expense of Woods.
 
Beem, who turns 32 Saturday, has rocketed to fourth on the seasons money list. Hes earned $1.8 million in those two victories, to which he said: I think the IRS is going to enjoy my next quarterly income statement.
 
But as he points out, all the money in Tigers bank account couldnt pay for what hes accomplished.
 
Ill be forever known as a former PGA champion and theres not a lot of people who can say that, Beem said. Im pretty sure I could sell that to Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer (neither of whom won the PGA) for more than a buck.
 
Now, hes competing in his first-ever World Golf Championships event at the NEC Invitational, which just happens to be contested outside of his old stomping grounds in Seattle.
 
After four hours worth of interviews following his triumph Sunday, Beem returned to the Pacific Northwest. He visited some old friends at Magnolia Hi-Fi, bought his wife, Sara, a digital camera, and even manned the phone-lines.
 
I just kind of as a joke walked over and said: Yeah, Magnolia Hi-Fi, this is Rich Beem, how can I help you? They got a pretty good kick out of it, said Beem, who still carries his company card.
 
So thats what the newest major champion does with his spare time. Hangs out with friends, jokes around, manages to get a haircut. Even when he goes shopping for exotic cars, he expresses that Joe Public quality.
 
Nobody wanted to help me because I was wearing shorts and sneakers and a baseball cap, he said, and nobody recognized me, which was totally fine.
 
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