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A close-up view at Boeing Classic

Fueling a new generation, 56-year-old professional golfer Andy Bean signs autographs at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge the day before the PGA Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic. - Dan Catchpole / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Fueling a new generation, 56-year-old professional golfer Andy Bean signs autographs at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge the day before the PGA Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic.
— image credit: Dan Catchpole / Snoqualmie Valley Record

The fans had been waiting for Andy Bean when he pulled up to TPC Snoqualmie Ridge’s first hole in his cart during a fundraising round the day before the PGA Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic. The men offered memorabilia — pictures, hats, flags — for the 56-year-old professional golfer to sign.

“Hey, Andy, can you sign a golf ball?” one man asked.

“I can try,” Bean replied in his easy-going, smooth Southern drawl.

A red-shirted volunteer stepped forward.

“Excuse me, please, why don’t you let him tee off first,” he said with an insistent tone.

“We’re good,” Bean said as he signed a photograph of him taken and printed the previous day.

The fans didn’t move.

“Please, let him tee off,” the volunteer said again.

Bean looked up.

“We’re good,” he said, looking directly at the volunteer. The ease was gone from his voice. “We got time, right?”

The volunteer walked back to the green, and Bean triedsigning a golf ball with his blue felt pen.

Bean has spent his life playing a game for a living.

“I’m living a lot of people’s dreams,” and he makes time for fans, he said.

But Bean isn’t laid-back when it comes to tournaments.

“Don’t let it fool you. I’m as competitive as any person you’ve met,” he said.

Bean learned golf from his father who was a golf pro.

At the University of Florida he was on the 1973 NCAA championship team. In 1975, Bean went professional, and in the late 1970s through the mid-’80s was one of the PGA Tour’s top players, racking up 11 tournament titles. He’s had a resurgence on the 50-and-over Champions Tour.

But Bean’s career on the tour was littered with second-place finishes in the major tournaments.

“I would’ve loved to win a major, but that just hasn’t been the case. I just wasn’t patient enough,” he said.

He played too aggressively, tried to do too much with one shot, he surmised as he looked across the fairway.

Bean carries an “empty feeling because I know I had the game to do it,” he said.

“But some guys never had a chance to get where I’ve been,” he added.

“This game’s all about consistency (and) keeping your ball in play,” Bean explained. “You play positions. Sometimes, the better you’re hitting it, the more chances you can take.”

Before taking a shot, he looks for subtle variations in conditions that tell him how the ball will roll when it lands.

His caddy, Tony Shepherd, has already researched everything there is to know about each hole on a course.

“If I ask him a question about the golf course, he knows the answer. When you’re down to the last few holes in a tournament, the yardage you have (to the hole) gives the player that much more confidence,” he said.

Despite his competitive nature, Bean left the tour in the early-’90s to help raise his three daughters.

“I might not have won a major, but ask my daughters if they know their father, and they’ll all say, ‘yes’.”

• Bean finished the Boeing Classic tied for 35th, one stroke under par.

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