Ben Curtis from Kent Ohio British Open Champ

Ben Curtis from Kent Ohio British Open Champ

Ben who? He won what?

It is pure coincidence that Ben Curtis from Kent, Ohio, won the British Open as a 500-1 long shot just a few days before the highly hyped and much anticipated movie Seabiscuit about a horse who came from nowhere and captured the imagination of a nation and beat the best thoroughbreds around.

While Curtis’ victory raised a few eyebrows around the world, it only proves that life is full of surprises and long shots can win the big one. Curtis, who was raised and learned his golf in Ostrander about 30 miles from Columbus on a course that was built by his grandfather, Dwight Black, was just another face pushed back in the crowd by the more talented and famous Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and company in the days leading up to the 132nd. British Open. There was nothing to suggest that this 396th ranked 26-year-old who had yet to finish in the top 10 of a PGA tournament in his rookie year would even create a ripple in the British Open.

There was nothing there to suggest that Curtis would win. When Woods obliterated the field to win his first U.S. Masters he had the potential and past form that one day he would win a bag of majors. The skinny on the man from Kent, Ohio, was that he was a two-time Ohio amateur champion, a semi finalist in the 1999 U.S. Amateur Championship, a member of the winning U.S. team in the 2000 World Amateur Championship and this time last year played on the Hooters Restaurant tournament. And to add to this almost-fairytale story Curtis just qualified to compete in the tournament.

ABC network broadcaster Al Michaels’ now famous call of “Do you believe in miracles?” when the U.S. hockey team defeated the highly fancied Russians at Lake Placid in the Winter Olympics semi finals could have been used when Curtis won the British Open. It is the stuff movies are made from. Sometimes even Hollywood doesn’t have the imagination to create a script that led Curtis from obscurity to international stardom in virtually the blink of an eye. Yet at the end of the day he reigned supreme and his name was engraved on the claret jug along all-time greats like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and others. And on the last day of the tournament the winner wore an orange shirt when most of us expected Woods in his usual final day claret shirt would prevail. It’s funny how sometimes long shots take center stage and stand in the spotlight with the trophy.

Now Ohio has two household names – Curtis and LeBron James, the overall No. 1 NBA draft pick who has signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is already worth more than $100 million without playing one NBA game and Curtis picked up a check for $1,112,720 for winning his first major. Suddenly Ohio is the home of a world golf champion and a basketball player with the potential to be the new face of the NBA, which right now needs a facelift in the image and role model departments. Is there something in the Ohio water that the rest of the country doesn’t know about? Whatever. It is refreshing that Ohio is the focus and home of two young fresh faced athletes with the best yet to come. And it was also a feel-good situation when Curtis talked about his coming marriage in August to fiancee Candace Beatty and how the ceremony and planned family would overtake everything else. Yes, it was a nice, refreshing weekend when a new face from Ohio became a champion and the rest of the world looked on.

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