This week the Open Championship returns to Royal St. George’s for the first time since 2011 where Darren Clarke was victorious. When it was held at the Sandwich, England links track in 2003, the 396th ranked player in the world claimed the Claret Jug. He was a 500 – 1 long shot. It was his first major appearance. His name was Ben Curtis.
Not many players win their first ever tournament at a major. Ben did. Not many players took down the likes of Faldo, Singh, Love, and Woods on a Sunday at a major. Ben did. Not many casual fans knew who Ben Curtis was at that time nor recognize his name now. I do. Ben was born and raised about 45 minutes from my hometown outside Kent, Ohio. He played his college golf at Kent State under legendary coach, Herb Page. Leading up to the 03 Open he made 4 cuts in a row and felt that he played better each week. He was feeling confident and absolutely nobody was talking about him. “Why not me?” he remembered thinking. Curtis went on to win 4 times in his career and was a member of the victorious US Ryder Cup team in 2008 at Valhalla. But he officially retired in 2017. “I’m at peace with it. The 15 years of travel on tour wore me down. It’s easier when your kids are young, but as they grow older they get busier with sports and other things. It would probably have been a more difficult decision if I was playing well.”
Ben recalls how calm and confident he was that week. He felt very relaxed and wanted to enjoy it because he didn’t know if that was the only time he’d get to go over and play. He remembers Arnie and Jack sending him praise and Tiger congratulating him on the phone in the airport. It was a special week indeed. Ben and wife Candace continue to do special work in northeast Ohio as they are involved in numerous charities including The Ben Curtis Family Foundation and have the Ben Curtis Golf Academy. The academy prepares kids to not only excel at junior golf but also in the classroom and in the community. They also offer preparation and council to parents getting ready to go through the recruiting process with colleges.
As a former Open winner, Curtis is exempt in every championship until he’s 60. So don’t count out a return across the pond just yet. “I have a list a mile long of friends and family who want to caddie for me if I ever go back. I could probably have a different one for each shot,” he said. “If I do go back and don’t want it to be for 2 rounds in front of the 5 or 6 people who will follow me. I want to be ready to compete. I also don’t want to take someone’s spot who’s trying to make a living.” Call him modest. Call him humble. Call him a helluva guy. But always call him a British Open Champion.
500 – 1 Odds in the field this year:
Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Cole Hammer, Chan Kim, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Marcel Schneider, Richard Mansell, Yuki Inamori, J. C. Ritchie, Yuxin Lin, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Matthias Schmid
Current 396th Ranked Player in the World
Josh Geary – Australia
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional