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