They have reminisced about his skills as a fisherman, his charitable deeds, his religious faith, and his willingness to help those in need. They often refer to him as a gentle giant and true Southern gentleman, recalling the animated drawl that made you feel like an instant friend.
“Well, let’s say I’m not one of those uptown dudes,” Bean once told the Tampa Tribune.
A member of Florida’s 1973 NCAA champion men’s golf team, Bean was born in Lafayette, Ga., about an hour’s drive across northern Georgia from the town of Chatsworth, where Gators football coach Billy Napier grew up. Bean was raised on Jekyll Island in South Georgia and learned to play golf from his father, golf pro and course superintendent Tom Bean. For a brief time on Jekyll Island, Bean had a pet alligator, earning him the nickname Alligator Andy when word about his past spread following his first PGA Tour victory.
The family moved to Florida when Bean was 15, and he later joined a talented UF team that 50 years ago became the second team in school history in any sport to win a national championship (1968 men’s golf was the first).
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Bean towered over his Gators teammates, a group that included future PGA Tour players Gary Koch, Woody Blackburn and Phil Hancock, plus Fred Ridley, current chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.
At the 1973 NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla., Bean finished sixth in the individual standings, five shots behind winner and future PGA Tour star Ben Crenshaw of Texas. Koch was runner-up, three shots back of Crenshaw’s winning score. But with four players in the top 15 — Ben Duncan was ninth, and Blackburn, 11th — the Gators won the team title by 10 strokes over runner-up Oklahoma State.
A three-time All-American at Florida, Bean’s star continued to rise, and by the time he prepared to make his PGA Tour debut in 1976, the colorful newcomer was already drawing headlines.
“Bean is a big, powerful, genial athlete of the Joe Palooka mold who is so honest, candid and trusting one wonders if he isn’t a Disney studio creation,” Palm Beach Post golf writer Jim Warters penned in November 1975.
Bean used a grip-it-and-rip-it…