A smile crosses Beard's face. "I'll never forget leaving the doctor's office that day," he says. "I had the most wonderful feeling I'd ever had in my life, that I did not have to drink. I did not have to drink. I was going to find another way."
Watching Beard play today, it's hard to believe that two years ago he couldn't make one-foot putts. Practice restored his feel around the greens, and AA meetings and prayer helped with what Beard calls his "dry drunks, where I feel this tightness in my chest and I get upset with myself and everyone around me."
"When he first came out, he looked a little lonely," says Larry Mowry, another recovering alcoholic who has found success on the Senior tour. "He told me he was in the same situation I was in, so we struck up a nice friendship. He's a beautiful golfer and an extremely nice man. I think he's already the best iron player on the tour."
Tour veteran Bobby Nichols is similarly impressed. "Frank was always a very smart player," he says, "and I think his swing is even more solid now than before. We're all glad to see him back."
In competition the new Frank Beard resembles the old: tight-lipped and methodical. "I know I look dour out there," he says. "I try to talk over the ropes and be flip, I try to get into the seniors MO, which is Good Old Boys Having Fun. But it just isn't me. I'm not a light person, I'm not gregarious." But neither is he as absorbed in his game as he appears. "I don't concentrate that much. In fact, I've been criticized for not concentrating at all. By my wife, usually."
He's still a worrier, though. At July's Ameritech Senior Open, at Canterbury Golf Club in suburban Cleveland, Beard brooded over the possibility that his first-half success might have been a flash in the pan. "My golf swing bothers me," he said, walking a fairway during the Thursday pro-am. "There wasn't a single shot that I hit last week [a sixth-place tie at Grand Rapids, Mich.] that I looked up knowing where it was going." Swinging a five-iron from the fairway, he hit a perfect-looking draw to within about 15 feet and then frowned over two or three practice swings.
Someone asked him how long it usually took him to get his swing back. "Well"—he practiced his shoulder turn, not looking up—"from 1973 until June of this year, I didn't have it."
Beard says he is happy now. "I'm extremely fortunate to get a second chance to play," he says, "and even more to have the family and life-style I have."
And yet, Beard seems haunted by the sense that he should be enjoying his success more. The problem may be that he still accepts success no better than he accepts failure. "It embarrassed him when people came up and complimented him after the Open," says Susan. "He feels the burden of expectations. I hear, 'Congratulations, Frank, you deserved it,' but he hears, 'And you have to do it again.' " She stares at her husband, sitting on the couch. "The disease is still there."
Beard nods wearily. "All pressure is self-inflicted," he says. "Even, this story. If I'm not in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, that's a little less pressure on me. You understand? It never ends. I learned early on that there's never a time when you can rest on your laurels.