Fifty years ago on Sept. 17, 1960, Deane Beman, who as commissioner helped to forge the modern PGA Tour, did what no other golf administrator has done – Beman won the U.S. Amateur, establishing his championship credentials.
Beman’s feat is rare among the captains of golf’s corporate success. For all of the achievements of Fred Corcoran, the tour’s first director, Joseph C. Dey Jr., tour administrator for several years in the last century, and Tim Finchem, the present-day PGA Tour commissioner, none won a national golf championship.
At the 1960 presentation ceremony at St. Louis (Mo.) C.C., where he received the Havemeyer Trophy for winning the Amateur, Beman’s words may have typified his life.
“I feel very much like that old flag flying from that pole over there,” Beman said. “Limp, tired, tattered, but proud and flying high.”
The career of Deane Randolph Beman was as varied as it was successful. At the time of his U.S. Amateur victory, he was a student at the University of Maryland while holding down two jobs (in insurance and public relations), and he was a husband and the father of one child with another on the way. Already established as a truly fine golfer, he had captured the 1959 British Amateur, making him only the ninth player to have won both titles.
Though only 5 feet 7 inches tall and not a long hitter, Beman’s game was of championship caliber. After his win in the British Amateur, Leonard Crawley of the London Daily Telegraph described Beman as “a magnificent player, fierce, mechanical, methodical and utterly efficient.”
Beman’s strengths were his fairway woods and, to a greater degree, his putting, which even his friend and Walker Cup teammate Jack Nicklaus, who was himself fine on the greens, envied. Beman knew the value of his skill.
“I don’t mind being outdriven, but I start getting mad if the fellow I’m playing with outputts me,” Beman said then.
Beman got off to a good start in golf. At the urging of his father, he began playing the game in the Bethesda, Md., area at the age of 12. At 15, he was medalist in Washington-area qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur. At 17, he qualified for the U.S. Open.
His strong competitive desire was honed as a starter for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase recreation center 125-pound football team, where he was a vicious tackler on defense and a slippery halfback on offense. At the age of 13, Beman scored 125 of his team’s 158 points for the season.
As he reached adulthood, Beman appeared to be one of the few hot young players who planned to pursue a business career and remain an amateur. He made the 1959 Walker Cup team, the first of four on which he would compile a 7-2-2 record. Shortly thereafter, he won the British title at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.
In 1960, he was keen to win the U.S. Amateur. St. Louis Country Club was a good venue for Beman. The course sported small greens which tested approach-shot accuracy, and the course’s slippery putting surfaces would complement his fine work with the putter.
Other players in the field such as Al Geiberger, Phil Rodgers and especially Jack Nicklaus, the defending champion, were more heralded than Beman, but no one was more tenacious.
“I was as good as anybody at match play,” Beman later told a reporter.
Nicklaus’s tremendous power and the fact that he had won in 1959 made him the favorite that week, but he went out to the unheralded Charles Lewis of Little Rock in the fourth round, 5 and 3.
Beman narrowly escaped his early matches, winning, 1 up, against Claude Wright in the first round and outlasting William Deemer, 2 up, in round two. He then settled down and won his next three matches by big margins; 6-and-5 against James Dolan; 7-and-5 against John Suisman; and a 4-and-3 toppling of Frederick Paine.
Then Beman faced Bill Hyndman III, the elegant Huntingdon Valley, Pa., amateur who had played on two Walker Cup teams and had finished second to Beman in the British Amateur. Their quarterfinal encounter was a battle. Beman took a three-hole lead after the fourth, but Hyndman countered by hitting the ball to within 2, 6, 10 and 3 feet for four birdies to even the match after nine.
Hyndman was working very hard to stay up with his opponent. On the 16th, the effort finally took a toll when he shanked his 188-yard approach shot into the 17th fairway and lost the hole to square the match. The next two holes were halved in par and the match ended at the 19th when Beman sank a 15-footer to win.
Beman got past John Farquhar of Amarillo, Texas, in the semifinal, 5 and 4. Now he would face 39-year-old veteran Bob Gardner, the California and New York Metropolitan champion, in the final.
Gardner had knocked Lewis out of the championship in the semifinal. It was his third consecutive match against a 19 year old and Gwilym Brown wrote in Sports Illustrated that after Gardner won the match on the 19th hole, the older campaigner said, “I’m all worn out,” and “tottered toward the quiet sanctity of his hotel room,” saying, “I’m a nervous wreck.”
Beman’s advance was no less remarkable in that his attention to his family and career gave him little time for practice. Much of the year he traveled, setting up new accounts for his busines, although many of the trips coincided with appearances in major amateur events.
But the finale against Gardner was Beman’s chance to advance into golf’s elite championship circle and he shot 68 in the morning for a three-hole lead that he never relinquished. Gardner too was playing good golf. After a diet of steak, cottage cheese and coffee the winter before, he had trimmed 32 pounds off his fighting weight. In the final against Beman he was two over par, but Beman cut two more strokes from par in the afternoon and won decisively on the 32nd hole, 6 and 4.
The golf press took note. “The nation’s hat is again held aloft in salute to Deane Beman, who just a little more than a year ago was an unheralded golfer,” according to Golf World.
His U.S. Amateur crown put Beman in another class. In September, he joined Nicklaus, Gardner and Hyndman in representing the USA in the World Amateur Team Championship at Merion outside of Philadelphia. The USA blasted past second-place Australia by a 42-stroke margin after the four rounds.
The following year at Pebble Beach, Beman, seeking to successfully defend his title, ran up against Harry Allers in the first round. Both players grew up in Maryland, so they knew each other from junior and amateur golf.
Beman was poised and Allers, the less heralded player, was naturally nervous as the match began.
“His (Beman’s) reputation was that of a fierce competitor who was a little standoffish and aloof, and he was all those things including a little arrogance thrown in for good measure,” Allers said. “But he had won an American and British Amateur and I suppose he had a right to have an attitude.”
Allers knew he was in the big leagues against Beman and he prepared by reminding himself of his own victories in junior and amateur golf.
“I was getting ready to do battle with him by convincing myself I’d be a worthy opponent, and I was,” said Allers. Four holes down after six, Allers fought back to take Beman all the way to the 18th hole, where Beman finally prevailed, 1 up. But Beman’s hopes were dashed when he lost in the next round, 2 up, to Billy Joe Patton.
In 1961, Nicklaus, Hyndman, Gardner and Beman were all selected to the USA Walker Cup team and the four won all of their matches, including a noteworthy 6-and-5 win by Beman and his partner Nicklaus in foursomes.
Shortly after the Walker Cup, Gwilym Brown wrote another story about Beman for Sports Illustrated, a full-length feature that enhanced his legend.
Beman, Brown wrote, “is the prospering proof that amateur golf can yield up a spectacular living to the sportsman energetic enough and shrewd enough to play the angles as well as he plays his shots.” For Beman, business was booming.
Beman came back in 1963 to win a second U.S. Amateur title. From 1958 through 1963, he had a glowing 24-4 record in U.S. Amateur matches.
He turned professional in 1967 and won four tournaments on the PGA Tour, also finishing in a tie for second in the 1969 U.S. Open. Then, at the age of 35, he began the career for which he is most noted, in 1974 becoming commissioner of the PGA Tour. Beman was a master of innovation. The Tournament Players Championship, the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour, as well as increasing income from television contracts, are all products of his tenure. He retired in 1994. He also conceived the World Golf Village, which is not far from the PGA Tour Headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The Village is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame, into which Beman was inducted in 2000 in the Lifetime Achievement category.
Beman’s eye-opening two decades as an innovator of American professional tournament golf could cause his career as one of the top amateurs in the world to pale. But the memories, for Beman, endure.
"As an amateur, I'd like to be remembered as being at the top of my competition," he said of his amateur playing days. "I was right there with the best of them."
Indeed, he was.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications with the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.