"The term we use is compulsive-obsessive," Beard says. "Gamblers, shoplifters, overeaters—we all have the same disease. The average person thinks drinking is the cause of the problems, but the problems cause the drinking. I drank because I couldn't deal with sobriety. The world was not running the way I wanted it to."
( Beard's preswing routine at the Senior Open comes to mind: the careful placing of the club face behind the ball and then, instead of a free waggle, a soft tap of the ground with the sole of the club. And then another tap and another and another—the club head creeping away from his feet until the ball is off the hosel—and another and another...until sweat popped out on foreheads in the gallery. "Sometimes he has trouble pulling the trigger," Susan said. "Everything has to be right before he swings.")
"I was a pretty happy drunk," Beard continues, putting his arms on the sofa back. "I didn't beat up on my wife or kids, I didn't kill myself or somebody else in a car, although I could have. That's the thing that still shocks me, the number of times I drove drunk, the times I left the club legally drunk after a drink or two. Although it was never a drink or two, it was six or seven, really blotto." He shakes his head in wonder. "I was never even stopped. Nothing."
When Beard speaks in this context of his wife and kids, he means his first family—wife Patty, and kids Danny, Randi, Jennifer and Rachel, All of them except Rachel, who wasn't born yet, tiptoe across the pages of Pro like Bedouins, carrying their toys, suitcases and diaper bags, barely leaving footprints in the sands. He could not hide his drinking from his family, although he tried.
"I learned all the tricks and ruses," he says. " 'Well, I'll just drink beer this week. Wine! I won't have anything but wine this week.' Bull. You get just as drunk on beer and wine. 'I'll drink only 3.2 beer!' So you drink two cases of it. I even quit totally for two weeks. I proved I wasn't an alcoholic by stopping for two weeks—which gave me permission to drink for the next 10 years.
"Most people hit bottom. They wind up in a ditch, kill somebody, wind up in jail, lose all their money...."
Beard hesitates, cocks his head. "You know, it's just come to me why I haven't been able to unwind since I've been home. I'm scared to death that the second half of this year won't be as good as the first half. I'm already looking at the next 13 weeks and thinking I have to do better or I've failed."
And for a moment his eyes seem focused somewhere beyond the fireplace, beyond the wall. You could yell, and he wouldn't blink.
Says Susan, "Sometimes I look at him, and I know he isn't hearing a word I'm saying. He's gone."
If you ask Beard when he became a drinker, he'll tell you it was at the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am in 1964 or '65, he isn't sure which. "I remember it was cold," he says. "One of my partners, we went up to his room, and he asked if I wanted a drink. I said, 'Yeah, I'll have a Scotch and water. I think I'll taste one.' That clicks into my mind because that was when I began to drink Scotch, which is what I drank, mostly."