Not many high school teachers can say they beat the likes of Tiger Wood, Thomas Bjørn, and Vijay Singh; in fact, there is probably only one in the whole world, and his name is Ben Curtis.
This unassuming chap was 26 back in 2003, when, to the shock of the entire sporting world, he recorded his first ever top 10 finish at a PGA Tour event, winning The Open and the £700,000 prize that came with it.
Before the competition began, the bookies had Curtis at odds of 500/1, which basically meant they thought he had absolutely no hope of getting anywhere near the final round, let alone winning the thing.
Punters basically ignored him, with the bookies taking pennies on him, but £87 was matched on Curtis on the Betfair Exchange at 999/1, with another measly £263 coming in as his odds dropped to between 500/1 and 300/1.
You couldn’t blame them either.
Curtis only turned pro in 2000, and had taken part in just 2 competitions winning the princely sum of about $6,000 up until 2003. That said, his family owned a golf course, so you could say the sport was in his blood.
He didn’t compete at all in 2002 but was much more active in 2003, taking part in 13 competitions before The Open, and making the cut in 8 of them. His best finishing position was tied 13th, and that was in the 100th Western Open which took place just a few weeks before The Open where Curtis would pull off his amazing feat.
Without that 13th place finish, he wouldn’t even have qualified.
Open Win, Quitting Golf, Becoming a Teacher
The Open was held in Sandwich, England in 2003, so the American was a long way from home, and used a local caddy named Andy Sutton – and even he admitted that he had never heard of Ben Curtis.
He and everyone else soon would though.
He finished with a score of 72 in Round 1, which kept his profile low, but another score of 72 in Round 2 gave him a total of 144, leaving him tied in 4th along with 6 others.
He pushed up to tied 3rd place in the Third Round with a 70 point finish, sitting just two points off the leader at 214, but then scored 69 in the final round to make a total score of 283, putting him in 1st place and winning him the competition by 1 point.
Going into the final round, and with his odds now right down to 10/1, one punter at William Hill put £5,000 on Curtis to win, which even at this late stage would have been a very tasty payout indeed.
Despite this success, Ben Curtis never won another major competition, but continued to compete for many years earning a healthy living from the sport.
Ben quit Golf in 2017, citing the constant travel and being away from family as the main reason, but also accepting it was an easier decision to make since his form hadn’t been great.
As a former champion he is eligible to play in the Championship until he is 60 years old, but when asked if he would ever go back he said:
“If I’m going to go, it wouldn’t be for two days and to wave to the five people who follow me. If I’m going back, I need to feel I have a chance to be competitive and make the cut.
“I also don’t want to take a spot away from somebody who is trying to earn a living. If I do it, I need to feel ready to compete.”
He sounds like a thoroughly nice chap.