Senior Amateur Sensation
Bill Shean Jr., an insurance agency owner from Hinsdale, 111., and a lifelong club golfer, spent four years preparing for the intensely competitive senior amateur circuit, putting on the AstroTurf green in his basement, lifting weights and working with sports psychologist Bob Rotella. All the effort paid off. On March 27, 1998, Shean (pronounced SHEE-in) turned 55, the minimum age for senior amateur events, and that July, in his third tournament, he was second in the British Senior Amateur. Five weeks later he won the U.S. Senior Amateur, and with the victory came invitations to a dozen prestigious events at places like Merion and Seminole, plus a spot in Hale Irwin's threesome at this year's U.S. Senior Open, where Shean played admirably, missing the cut by only two shots. Last month Shean won the British Senior Amateur to become the first player to hold the British and U.S. tides concurrently.
Odd, then, that Shean has mixed emotions about his meteoric rise to the top. "Winning was marvelous, and so was the appreciation from family and friends," says Shean, who has three children, ages 25 to 31. "But the travel killed me. Most of all, I missed my wife."
Such a sentiment is exactly what one would expect from a man like Shean. He doesn't curse, drink or smoke and has been on the board of trustees for the Christ Church of Oak Brook (Ill.) for 12 years. His small measure of celebrity hasn't changed him a bit. "It's amazing, but he's always been a humble, giving person," says Lyn, Shean's wife of 32 years.
The second of nine children in a strict Irish Catholic family, Shean was a natural at golf. He started caddying at Hinsdale Golf Club at 13 and that summer taught himself to play with the help of Ben Hogan's book Power Golf. By the end of the year Shean was shooting in the 70s and winning all the money at the Monday caddie outings. He attended Michigan on an Evans Scholarship (for caddies) but didn't play on the team. Though he dreamed about turning pro, he was too smart to do so. "Beating caddies is one thing," says Shean, "but unless you're absolutely cleaning house in the amateur ranks, you have no business thinking you can play with Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, and you ought to have a day job."
For the last few years, Shean has worked long hours during the winter selling insurance so he can play hooky in the summers and sate his appetite for golf. A member of five clubs, he has won seven championships at Butler National, five at Chicago Golf and one at Pine Valley, in 1995, when he set the club's 54-hole competitive record with a one-under 209.
Considering Shean's recent success, has he thought about trying the Senior tour? "No way," says Shean, who will defend his U.S. Senior Amateur tide next week at Portland Golf Club. "Living out of a suitcase for the past year, I learned that even if I had the game, I would not have survived on the pro tour. I like being home way too much."
A Web Site with Spin
Tour Takes Over
Within three years of its January 1995 launch, GolfWeb was the most visited golf site by far. Specializing in worldwide news, features and commentary, the site won several awards, including America Online's 1995 Best Sports Site of the Year. In 1997 CBS SportsLine bought GolfWeb and in April of this year GolfWeb merged with PGATour.com. When the combined site debuted on Aug. 31, it read more like a press release from the Tour than a journalistic enterprise.
The new site prominently displays news and real-time scoring from the PGA Senior and Nike tours but buries everything else. The fact that the Tour has the last word on content is all too obvious. Recently, a headline on a story about Tiger Woods was changed from TIGER OUTSHINES DUVAL to TIGER ON A ROLL because the Tour disliked the way the original pitted one player against another. Last week, when Callaway dropped John Daly, the site's editors had to get permission from Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to display the story prominently, according to Stu Schneider, who until resigning last week had been the executive editor of GolfWeb since December 1995. "The Tour is running the show," Schneider says.