Hometown Florida remembers Andy Bean, the massive man with a coronary heart of gold

Hometown Florida remembers Andy Bean, the massive man with a coronary heart of gold

LAKELAND, Fla. – Gary Koch’s favourite Andy Bean story occurred after they had been teammates on the College of Florida competing within the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Georgia. Koch watched from the golf green as an indignant Beane appeared to take a chew out of a balata ball after lacking a brief putt. Curious, Koch looked for the ball within the bushes subsequent to the inexperienced.

“Certain sufficient, I discovered this Titleist 3 with a giant chunk of it, identical to an apple,” Koch stated with amusing.

Woody Blackburn roomed with Bean in Florida and recalled the time Bean picked up a child raccoon on his manner house from apply and put it in an empty golf bag.

“I can prepare him,” Ben insisted after the animal dirty his dorm mattress. “He’ll be fantastic.”

The Bean tales had been flowing Monday at Grasslands Golf and Nation Membership in Lakeland, Fla., the place Bean and his spouse, Debbie, lived behind the home. Not lengthy after Bean died from problems of double lung substitute surgical procedure final October on the age of 70, associates banded collectively to prepare the Andy Bean Memorial Golf Event, benefiting the native First Tee program. The occasion bought out in lower than every week.

Debbie Bean is taking part along with her seven grandchildren within the Andy Bean Memorial Golf Event. (Picture: Claire Nabonic)

Ben moved to Lakeland from Jekyll Island, Georgia, as a young person and after a profitable stint in Florida, the massive man with delicate arms and excessive hair joined the PGA Tour in 1976, successful 11 tournaments over a decade. Though he by no means gained a significant match, he completed as runner-up thrice and represented the USA on two Ryder Cup groups (1979 and 1987).

At Grasslands, his three daughters wore Ryder Cup jerseys they found that had their father’s title stretched throughout the again. His seven grandchildren — ages 5 to 10 — wore T-shirts that stated “Group Dudad.”

“It is superb to see all the things they put collectively in the present day,” stated Lauren Cushenberry, Ben’s eldest daughter.

“There’s plenty of gratitude for who my father was, and who he was to so many, simply the love that comes full circle on this.”

All the time looking for others

Andy Bean was the sort to hold a tow rope behind his truck to assist these stranded on the aspect of the highway. He did the identical factor within the Florida Everglades together with his boat, usually rescuing these stranded on a sandbar.

He usually paid for firefighters’ and law enforcement officials’ meals anonymously. After horrifying one shot on the 1983 British Open, he purchased an electrical wheelchair for just a little woman he’d seen on the truthful all week being pushed up and down hills by her mother and father.

“He had a coronary heart to assist others, particularly kids,” Debbie stated.

Whereas nonetheless competing for the PGA Tour Champions Championship, Bean was instrumental in elevating cash for the First Tee of Lakeland by the Barkley, Bean, Bryant and Buddies superstar occasion, which raised hundreds of thousands over 15 years.

TJ Wright was 9 years outdated the primary time he arrange a golf membership at First TV in Lakeland. Bean paid for Wright’s membership to the native Par-3 course and watched him compete in junior tournaments.

“He was a male determine in my life that I regarded as much as that I did not have in my private life,” stated Wright, now 27 and govt director of the First Tee program.

“The best way he cared in regards to the sport and cared about different children, wherever they got here from in the neighborhood, was very inspiring to me, and one of many causes I wished to return again and work at First Tee and be part of it.”

At Monday’s public sale, Jack Nicklaus, who got here together with his spouse Barbara to Ben’s funeral, donated a signed duplicate of the 1-iron he utilized in 1972 to birdie the seventeenth gap at Pebble Seashore en path to his third of 4 U.S. Open titles. .

Koch, a six-time PGA Tour winner and tv broadcaster, donated a golf foursome and had lunch with him at Outdated Memorial in Tampa. His shut buddy David Leadbetter donated a two-hour lesson.

Within the early days of Leadbetter’s educating profession, he labored at Andy Bean Golf Studio on Grenelefe in Haines Metropolis, Florida. It was Bean who invited Leadbetter to his first Masters match. They drove an hour earlier within the week on the lookout for good BBQ and Dairy Queen.

“He was type of like a Buffalo Invoice Off the Tour contestant, throwing alligators into the lake and biting golf balls,” Ledbetter stated.

His former Florida teammate Fred Ridley, now president of Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership and the Masters Event, made the journey to Lakeland, the place he was born and lived till the age of eight. Ridley, who then moved to close by Winter Haven, performed properly at college golf in opposition to Bean and later teamed with him in faculty.

When Ridley gained the 1975 U.S. Newbie, he met Penn within the semifinals on the Nation Membership in Virginia. After discovering the lengthy tough on the par-5 sixteenth, a assured Bean pulled out a 3-iron and aimed for a inexperienced that was guarded by a big, overhanging oak tree. The ball moved across the tree for a while earlier than touchdown on the entrance of the inexperienced.

Bean gained the holeshot, however it wasn’t sufficient to win the match. Through the post-round interview, Ridley stated a reporter requested Benn if it was silly to attempt to hit that shot from behind.

“Andy checked out this man and stated, ‘Mister, there’s not a rattling tree in Virginia that may cease Andy Bean’s golf ball,'” Ridley recollects with a smile.

“That was Andy Bean.”

Brad Bryant, winner of the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, offers a clinic earlier than a charity outing at Grasslands Golf and Nation Membership to honor Andy Bean. (Picture: Claire Nabonic)

Koch stated the 6-foot-4 Bean hit a few of the most stunning long-iron photographs he is ever seen in Florida, fizzling 2-irons and 3-irons that began low and fell softly like a feather.

“It was lengthy earlier than we knew how lengthy,” Koch stated.

Ben met his spouse, Debbie, on a brief flight to Delta. With no snow on board, the younger flight attendant apprehensive {that a} raft of complaints from avid PGA Tour gamers may cost a little her her job. As a substitute, Ben requested if they may have dinner when he acquired again to Atlanta.

Buddies say having three daughters softened Ben’s character, whose world in his later years revolved round household, religion and giving again.

A damaged wrist ensuing from a automotive accident ended Beans’ aggressive profession in 2014 after three PGA Tour Champions victories. Nonetheless, he was a mainstay on the golf course, fast to supply recommendation to the town’s junior and faculty gamers, even after a battle with the coronavirus ravaged his lungs and left him on an oxygen tank. If somebody wanted assist, Ben was there.

Rick Nolte, proprietor of a neighborhood golf store on the town, stated Ben cherished tinkering together with his golf equipment and would come to him when he acquired to the purpose the place he wanted assist.

“He was sitting behind the counter someday, and other people would come up and do a double and triple take and whisper, ‘That is Andy Bean,’” Nolte stated.

Brad Bryant began fishing with Ben in 1980, and so they spent plenty of time collectively after Bryant moved to Lakeland. That they had a particular place in Hawaii the place they cherished to fish for bonefish on a mud flap. Late one afternoon, because the solar set alongside the horizon, Ben noticed 4 bonefish coming Bryant’s manner.

However it was the way in which Ben helped him catch these fish — by climbing a 15-foot tree — that stood out.

“That was Andy Bean,” Bryant stated. “Andy will do his finest that will help you do the belongings you wish to do, that lots of people do not do.”

That is how he will probably be remembered in his hometown: the massive man with a coronary heart of gold.

(tags for translation) PGA Tour

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