LAKELAND, Fla. – Gary Koch’s favorite Andy Bean story happened back when they were University of Florida teammates competing at the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Georgia. Koch watched from the fairway as an angry Bean appeared to take a bite out of a balata ball after missing a short putt. A curious Koch searched for the ball in the bushes by the green.
“Sure enough, I find this Titleist 3 with a big chunk out of it, just like an apple,” Koch said with a laugh.
Woody Blackburn roomed with Bean at Florida and recalled the time Bean picked up a baby racoon on the way home from practice and housed him in an empty golf bag.
“I can train him,” Bean insisted after the animal had soiled his dorm bed. “He’ll be fine.”
The Bean stories were flowing Monday at Grasslands Golf and Country Club in Lakeland, Florida, where Bean and his wife, Debbie, lived on the back nine. Not long after Bean died from complications from double lung replacement surgery last October at the age of 70, friends came together to organize the Andy Bean Memorial Golf Tournament, benefitting the local First Tee program. The event sold out in less than a week.
Bean moved to Lakeland from Jekyll Island, Georgia, as a teenager and after a successful stint at Florida, the big man with soft hands and a high fade joined the PGA Tour in 1976, winning 11 tournaments over span of a decade. While he never won a major, Bean finished runner-up three times and represented the U.S. on two Ryder Cup teams (1979 and 1987).
At Grasslands, his three daughters wore Ryder Cup sweatshirts they’d uncovered that had their dad’s name stretched across the back. His seven grandkids – who range in age from 5 to 10 – wore shirts that said “Team Dodad.”
“It’s overwhelming to see everything that they have put together today,” said Bean’s eldest daughter, Lauren Cushenbery.
“There’s so much gratitude in who he was as my dad and who he was to so many, just the love that is coming full circle in this.”
Always looking out for others
Andy Bean was the kind of guy who carried a tow rope in the back of his truck to help those stranded on the side of the road. He did the same in the Florida Everglades with his boat, often rescuing those stuck on a sand bar.
He’d often anonymously pay for the meals of firefighters and police officers. And after coming…