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Beck in business at 50
By Mike Spellman
Daily Herald Sports Writer
Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

The man who had won four PGA Tour events, played on three Ryder Cup teams, came oh-so-close to winning the Masters and remains in the record books for shooting a 59 — tied for the lowest 18-hole score in PGA history — was now taking the train to Chicago doing the 9-to-5 thing.

That’s what happens when you lose it, and for much of the last decade Chip Beck simply lost it.

“I lost my game completely,” Beck admits. “I couldn’t hit the side of a barn.”

He tried to recapture his form playing occasionally on the PGA Tour and on a more regular basis with the young guns on the Nationwide Tour, but it wasn’t happening.

Associated Press
Chip Beck has been able to concentrate on his game again, thanks in large part to a renewed swing and the Champions Tour.

So there he was, in his mid-40s, basically out of the game he had played since he was 10.

With a family to support, Beck knew he need to find something else. Through a friend in the game, the Lake Forest resident landed a job with an insurance firm in Chicago. As he had done with golf, he threw himself into his new line of work.

The ever upbeat Beck knew he was at a crossroads, though. He knew it was golf that was his passion. But his last hope, his best hope — the 50-and-older Champions Tour — still was a ways away. None of it would matter, however, if his game didn’t improve dramatically.

Then he met Dr. Jim Suttie, the golf guru who teaches at the Green Garden Country Club in Frankfurt, Ill., and the light went on.

“I knew when I met Jim in January of 1999, I knew I could come back with this guy,” said Beck, who then was hampered by a bulging disc in his back. “He knew what I was talking about with my back. Without his support and expertise on how to bring a guy back, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Suttie helped Beck alter his closed swing, opting instead to go with a strong grip that put less pressure on his back. The old magic didn’t return immediately, but it rounded into form after years of hard work.

Not a problem for Beck, who was willing to put in the time.

“I didn’t want to work in the real world for the next 10 years like I did for the past five,” said Beck, who worked as a partner with Mentor Financial. “My talent is golf. That’s what I always wanted.

“For two years I worked morning and night. The bulging disc was really painful, but at that time, with your career on the line, you’ll work real hard. I was hungry for this. I figured, what’s the downside?”

As the Champions Tour got closer and closer, Beck occasionally played with the PGA Tour flat bellies but without much success. He made about $6,000 in one PGA Tour event this year and a little more than $20,000 in 13 Nationwide tournaments.

Then he hit the big 5-0 in August and it was like he had been reborn. The old Chip returned.

It began with a tie for fifth at the Constellation Energy Classic five days after his birthday. Next was a third-place finish at the Greater Hickory Classic. Last weekend he finished tied for second at the rain-shortened SAS Championship.

Three tournaments, three top-five finishes. Already he is 44th on the Champions Tour money list with $350,000 in earnings.

“For me, I’m just happy to have the opportunity to play golf again,” Beck said. “Obviously, it’s surprising. I never anticipated going like that. It’s been nice.”

But it’s almost over. The Champions Tour closes its season this weekend with the Administaff Small Business Classic in Spring, Texas.

Beck is itching to play a full schedule in 2007, and the Champions Tour returns with 29 events and a total purse of $54 million. He will have more competition next season when Mark O’Meara, Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Jeff Sluman, John Cook, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer turn 50 and become eligible to join the field.

Meanwhile, he’s loving life on the tour playing alongside many of his old buddies.

“It’s amazing. I know more guys out here than anywhere else,” Beck said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing them all. There’s a lot of nice guys on the Nationwide Tour, but, heck, they’re my son’s age.

“It’s been better than I anticipated. The people here have been so courteous. It’s a little different than the Nationwide and PGA tours.”

And so is Beck’s game, the return of which he credits to Suttie but also his wife and kids and his pals in the real world.

“The struggles, looking back on it, have been invaluable,” he said. “It keeps golf in perspective.”

He’s hoping this train won’t be making any stops for quite awhile.

Chip Beck at a glance

Age: 50

Turned pro: 1978

Residence: Lake Forest

PGA Tour highlights

•4 victories, with the last one in 1992

•Finished second on 1988 money list with $916,818

•All-time money won: $6,661,267 (60th)

2006 Champions Tour

Events: 3

Driving distance: 262.4 yards

Greens in regulation: 81.3%

Scoring average: 67.88

Money won: $350,000 (44th)

Source: PGA Tour, Champions Tour

Read more at Daily Herald



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