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Bean is learning from his mistakes. At last year's Houston Open he had a comfortable lead in the final round, then chose the wrong club on the 9th hole, made a double bogey and lost the tournament by one stroke. "That'll never happen again," he told his caddie. And so far it hasn't. Bean won the Kemper, Memphis and Western Opens, then took the Dunlop Masters in Japan. No one ever made the jump in money earnings that he did between his first and second years, and no third-year pro ever won as much. So far in 1979 he has $71,220 and is third on the list. Andy Bean might be getting ready to skin the tour. "I don't know if I'll win eight tournaments," he says. "But I could."
He says this in a forthright manner, looking at you with clear, wide-open eyes. He may be big, but he's not a loud-mouth. In fact, he's sometimes a bit shy, hunching in the almost humble manner of huge people, his head lowered kind of deferentially. He doesn't try to say the right thing but, instead, speaks his mind. Where he is from, ambiguity is despised. After telling a story, Bean will let the facts settle a moment or two, then add, "That's the way that goes."
Despite his relatively short fuse, he is a gentle person, patient with autograph seekers and fond of small children and animals. He estimates he has had 100 deer in his gunsights but has yet to shoot one because he's waiting for a trophy of the proper dimensions. At the British Open he kissed old women on the cheek and gave golf balls to the galleries, and during practice rounds at the Masters he races groups of kids to his ball. One pro-am partner was so taken with his engaging manner that he offered to donate a golf scholarship in Bean's name to Bean's alma mater, the University of Florida, where Buster Bishop, his college coach, often calls upon him to help with fund raising or recruiting. Nelson Cullenward, the golf writer for the San Francisco Examiner, says that when Bean heard he wanted to interview him at the 1977 Tournament of Champions, but was sick in his room, Bean went there to talk to him. "In 43 years of covering golf, he's the first guy ever to do something like that," Cullenward says.
Pate recalls Bean talking him into entering the 1974 Florida Amateur. At the time, Pate lived in Pensacola, a 20-year-old with a lackluster record who never had played in anything as big. Bean not only persuaded him to compete, but he also induced the officials to accept Pate's entry after the deadline and put him up in his parents' home. Pate went on to win the tournament—by one stroke over Bean. "It probably was one of the 10 dumbest things Andy ever did," says Pate. A few months later Pate won the U.S. Amateur. The following year he was low amateur in the U.S. Open and the year after that he won the 1976 Open. Pate will tell you that if he hadn't played in the Florida Amateur, he still might be in Pensacola.
Bean grew up in two different worlds. The first was Jekyll Island, Ga., where at one time the people who controlled one-seventh of the world's disposable income had homes. Or so it was said. Tommy Bean was their pro. The second world was outside Lakeland, Fla., where his father scratched out a living running a broken-down golf course. Mindful of the irony, the elder Bean named it Jekyll-Hyde. Between the millionaires and the sweat, Andy learned that you get back what you put in. Few people practice as hard as he does. And his captivating manner ultimately enabled him to get through the one rough spot in his career, his rookie season when he didn't make enough to pay his motel bills. Roy Mann, a rich glove manufacturer and family friend from Menlo, Ga. bankrolled him for no reward other than friendship.
"That big ol' boy is the reason I'm alive, the reason I can walk," says the 64-year-old Mann. In December 1975 Mann was operated on for cancer. "If it weren't for Andy Bean, I'd be dead. But there was no way I was going to die with Andy going on tour. I told his daddy 14 years ago, 'You train him, and I guarantee that he'll be on the pro tour. If Andy could do this to more people, the doctors would be out of business.' " Bean carries several worn $100 bills in his wallet. Mann has emphysema and isn't supposed to smoke, and every time Bean catches him, it costs Mann $100.
The back of Bean's neck is beginning to show the deep creases that are the badge of honest work in the gunrack country of the rural South. His attitude toward women reflects that heritage. For instance, he liked Susan O'Connor, his partner in the mixed-team championship two years ago, because she used salty language. But he was less pleased with Amy Alcott, his partner last year, because she wouldn't take his advice on reading greens. Around Haines City, if a female can't shoot a gun and whistle in the dogs, she belongs in the kitchen. Thus at dinner time, if Andy is busy oiling a shotgun in the living room, no one dares mention that supper is getting cold on the dining-room table. On the highway, when Debbie nervously points out a car heading toward them at an alarming rate, Andy yells back. "Now, woman! You let me drive. I see the dad gum car!" And if she has the temerity to reach up and straighten the morass of papers and paraphernalia crammed behind the sun visor, her husband says, "Woman, leave that stuff alone! You go messing with it, and I can't find anything."
Debbie is a former airline stewardess, but she never will tell Andy to put his baggage underneath his seat or to fasten his seat belt. He proposed to her in the Atlanta airport on April Fools' Day. Actually, it was more a command than a proposal. When Debbie said she wanted to think it over, Bean said there would be none of that, just go ahead and set a date. They were married last Aug. 30, in the middle of the week so Andy wouldn't have to miss a tournament.
"I guess you might call me lucky," says Debbie, who knew what she was getting into. Andy's mother Marjorie works seven days a week at the Jekyll-Hyde Golf Course but goes home early each day so she can prepare dinner. When her husband gets back, often as not he is exhausted enough to eat in bed. When Andy bought Debbie some flowers during this year's Phoenix Open, Debbie considered the implications. A Bean doesn't often buy his woman flowers. "He either wanted to surprise me," she said, "or he happened to pass a flower stand, or he wants to buy those two shotguns he was looking at."
Debbie is part of something called the Plan, which is Tommy's scenario for Andy's success on the tour. She bought a memory book to help her recall the names of people she meets at the golf course. She says Barbara Nicklaus did that when she and Jack first joined the tour. "They say-Barbara's fabulous," says Debbie. "She never forgets a name."