HOWARD WARD: Chip Beck: A Class Act Is Honored
There have been a lot of things that I've enjoyed over the years.
I've covered 21 Masters, seven U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships and more regular PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour events than I can remember.
I've covered golf on every level from junior to senior, the Carolinas PGA, the Carolinas Golf Association, the Southern Women's Golf Association, the Sunbelt Tour, the Hooters Tour, the Hogan Tour, the Nike Tour, the Buy.Com Tour and the Nationwide Tour.
I've covered a combined 20 Moore County Men's and Women's Amateur Championships over the last 10 years.
Golf is the greatest sport ever played, and it attracts some of the best people in the world. One of those people is a guy that I watched grow up in Fayetteville, Chip Beck.
His name is Charles Henry, but nobody, not even his mom, Dolores, calls him that. What everyone does call him is a class act.
Chip Beck has endured the highs and lows of a career that has resembled a rollercoaster ride. He was listed among the top 10 in the world rankings for more than 40 weeks. He won four times on the PGA Tour, finished second in two U.S. Opens and once in the Masters.
He won the PGA Tour's Vardon Trophy for low stroke average and was the second player to shoot 59 in a Tour event. He played on three Ryder Cup teams, including the War of the Shore at Kiawah in 1991 where he played a pivotal role.
But life is not always good for a professional golfer. The man from Fayetteville is an eternal optimist, but he's been through golf hell. He lost his swing due to a series of incidents that included injuries, new instructors and caddie changes. He missed 46 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour.
Beck lost a lot more than his golf swing over the years. But one thing he never lost was his optimism and cheerful personality. You never see Chip that he doesn't greet you with a warm smile, a handshake and a slap on the back.
Chip Beck does not forget his friends, good times or bad.
Which brings me to the subject of this column. I had the great pleasure of presenting Chip into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame at Pinehurst Country Club last Monday. I was apprehensive, wondering if I could do him justice. Truth is, I probably didn't, but it ranks as one of the highlights of my life.
As I said that night: The first time I met Chip, he had just walked off the 18th green at the Country Club of South Carolina. It was the early 1970s, and I had just been named sports editor of The Fayetteville Observer.
I was clutching a notepad and pen. Chip was clutching another trophy. That pretty much describes our relationship that has endured for almost 40 years.
Chip's hometown loves him because he has never forgotten his roots. He lives in Chicago now with his lovely wife Karen and their children, but he comes home often. After all, he has seven sisters and two brothers, as well as his wonderful mother, Dolores.
The city he grew up in paid homage a couple of years ago by inducting him into the Fayetteville Sports Hall of Fame. He was there, all smiles, shaking hands with everyone.
Chip regretfully couldn't attend the ceremonies in Pinehurst, but he was there in spirit, His wife, 15-year-old son John, his mother, two sisters and a brother made it. Also there and smiling a lot was Chip's teacher and mentor during the early years, former Highland Country Cub professional Tony Evans.
During an interview that I did for Golfweek several years ago, Chip talked about his ups and downs and cited an old Japanese proverb.
"The people who are the happiest are the people whom the knife of sorrow has cut the deepest," he said. "I've been cut pretty deeply in a lot of ways."
But he has never quit, not on himself or on the people who loved him. I sincerely meant it when I said, "There is no one I would rather present to you tonight for the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame than Charles Henry Beck."
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