Three Cheers for Ben Curtis
The sports pundits are scratching their crania this morning trying to figure out what happened yesterday at Royal St. George’s. I mean, how could this guy win the British Open, beating such world-class players as Thomas Bjorn, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, and Tiger Woods?
After all, where was Ben Curtis this time last year? Playing on the Hooters Tour—you know, that restaurant chain that specializes in, um, fried chicken.
In the end, however, when Bjorn’s 35-foot birdie attempt on the 18th green failed, Curtis was the surprised and shocked Open champion. “Surprised” champion to everyone but the champion himself, that is.
Throughout the competition, Curtis, ranked 396th in the world coming in, was confident and in total control. Not over-confident or braggadocious, mind you. Anyone playing in the Biggest of the Big would feel some nervousness. “I was shaking in my boots, obviously, but I was just out there very focused on what I had to do and let my work speak for itself,” said Curtis. “And if it was good enough, fine, if not, I can live with it.”
Pundits, got it now? Here’s the attitude that brought victory to Curtis: Focus on what you have to do, do the best you can, and be satisfied with the results—whatever they are.
What a refreshing approach to professional sports.
Listen again to Curtis: “Oh, man, that’s about all I can say now,” he said. “I came in here this week just trying to play the best I could and hopefully make the cut and compete on the weekend. And obviously I did that and went out there and probably played the best weekend of my life.”
When he rolled in a 6-footer for par on the 18th, Bjorn was at 3-under but in the process of double-bogeying the 16th. Love, Singh, and Woods were at even par.
“When I looked up at the scoreboard when I finished and saw that I was two back, and [Bjorn] had three holes to play, and those are not easy holes—I knew 17 and 18 especially were playing really difficult—and I knew I needed to make that putt to have a chance,” Curtis said. “I knew I needed that putt on 18 to win—to have a chance, at least, I should say. I didn’t necessarily think it was going to be the winning putt. And then just on the driving range I just was having fun and just trying to keep relaxed and not really think about it.”
“Just having fun.” All the while outlasting Tiger Woods and a collection of super-stars to win his first major championship.
“Many people are probably saying, ‘Well, he doesn’t really belong there,’” Curtis said after the tournament. “But I know I do, so that’s all that matters.”
It’s Lake Placid all over again. David versus Goliath. “The last shall be first.” Little guys can beat big dudes.
Give it all you got, and leave the results to God.
July 21, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.