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Clash of the Generations

The 2004 PGA Tour will continue to be a battleground between the Young Guns and the pop guns
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Tyson vs. King, Jan/Feb 04

(continued from page 3)

When Ben Curtis held the Claret Jug on the 18th green at Royal St. George's last July, he joined not only a legendary group of champions who have held it before -- names like Old and Young Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus -- but a group of off-the-chart long shots that have won major championships, such as Jack Fleck, Orville Moody, Paul Lawrie and John Daly.

This 26-year-old from Ohio was playing in his first major championship, having qualified the week before with a ninth-place finish in the Western Open that got him up high enough in the world rankings to earn a spot. But win the British Open? Win a major on his first try? Did it have anything do to with the karma of being from Kent, Ohio, and playing in the county of Kent, England?

"I know the names that are on the trophy, just from watching it and growing up around the game," said Curtis after his victory. "I'm in great company, and I feel like I don't belong right now, but I knew in my mind that I did. Right now many people are probably saying, well, he doesn't really belong there, but I know I do, so that's all that matters."

His only previous professional victory was the 2002 Myrtle Beach event on the Hooters Tour. But there had to be something more to him than minor league tours and Monday qualifying. Golfweek magazine once ranked him No. 1 in its amateur poll while he was making All-America honors at Kent State and he was part of the American team that won the World Team Amateur in 2000.

"I never doubted myself. I was the number one amateur when I turned pro, so I knew I had the game. It was just a matter of time for me," says Curtis. "I figured once I got there, that I had the game for this level. It was just a matter of time."

Craig Stadler: Pop Gun

 

The same week Curtis was winning the British Open in extraordinary fashion, Craig Stadler was doing the same thing at the B.C. Open in Endicott, New York. Stadler had turned 50 in June and the week before the B.C. Open he won his first Champions Tour event, The Senior Players Championship. Not having an exemption to play in the British Open, he elected to take a spot in Endicott, where his son Kevin was playing. And the Pop Gun won, shooting a final-round 63.


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