- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Steve Paramore was working in the pro shop Sunday at Brookside Golf Course in Ashland, Ohio, while Ben Curtis was making history in the British Open. Well, sort of working. His eyes rarely left the TV set as Curtis, an obscure pro competing in his first major championship, gave the golf world arrhythmia by vanquishing Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and a host of other luminaries.

“Customers would come in,” he says, “and I’d be like: ‘If you want to play golf, go ahead. I’m watching this.’”

Two days earlier, Paramore had won the Ohio Amateur golf championship — the same tournament Curtis won in 1999 and again in 2000. In fact, the two were paired for the last 36 holes in ‘99, when Ben torched the field by 17 shots.

“I hung with him in the third round,” Paramore says, “but I had a little hiccup in the final round and finished third. Ben played in that round just like he did yesterday — steady golf, very few mistakes.”

Except, of course, the stakes were a little higher: a claret jug was up for grabs. And by the end of the afternoon, despite the efforts of some of the biggest names in golf, it was the two-time Ohio Amateur champ who was clutching the prize.

“I got half-emotional when he won,” Paramore says. “I knew how big a deal it was to him … and being an Ohio kid and everything. When somebody like Ben Curtis wins the British Open, it makes you realize there are endless possibilities. If he can do it, anybody can do it.”

Maybe even, someday, Steve Paramore.

Paramore just graduated from Florida Southern, a Division II school, but he grew up in Ashland — whence he has returned to coach the women’s team at Ashland University. A self-described “Golfweek rat,” he follows the careers of other Ohio golfers closely. He can tell you, for instance, that the course Curtis grew up on, the one his grandfather built in Ostrander, “was originally a farm.” He can tell you that Ben played at Kent State for Herb Page, “a great coach.” He can tell you that when Ben was on the Hooters Tour, he worked in the pro shop at Windmill Lakes, his alma mater’s home links. If you have any questions about Ohio golf, Steve Paramore can probably answer them.

“People don’t realize how many talented golfers there are in Ohio,” he says. “Nicklaus [whos from Columbus] is the only true-born Ohioan you ever hear about. But there’s also [Toledos ] John Cook,” another two-time Ohio Amateur champ — not to mention Tom Weiskopf, a native of Massillon.

“We take our golf very seriously here,” Paramore says. “The Amateur is incredibly competitive. But it’s a northern state. People don’t think of Ohio when they think of golf. They think of Florida and California.”

Curtis certainly made them think of Ohio on Sunday. Which just goes to show what a strange and wonderful game golf is. Ben Curtis winning the British Open — with various major champions in contention — is roughly akin to the winner of the play-in game capturing the NCAA basketball tournament. It just doesn’t happen. Somehow, though, it did.

The way Paramore looks at it, Curtis is “an incredible player who just got discovered. He’s got a ton of accomplishments for a small-town, small-school [in golfing terms] guy. He was a [second team] All-American. He made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur [in ‘99, before losing to eventual champion David Gossett]. That’s how professional golf is. There are a thousand guys out there every week, waiting for their big break. Usually it’s in a tournament like the Greater Milwaukee Open. Ben’s just happened to be in the British Open.

“I lost to Bubba Dickerson [who went on to win] in the first round of the [2001] Amateur, and now he’s struggling on the Nationwide Tour. It takes awhile for you to get established. Ben’s what, 26? He did it pretty early, if you ask me.”

Like everybody else in the universe — including Curtis himself — Paramore had a hard time believing Ben would win. But after the third round, he figured a top 10 finish was possible, if not likely. “He hits it so darn straight,” he says, “and he putts well. I was surprised he didn’t get through Q-School the first couple of times he tried.”

And then to have Curtis’ 1-under-par score hold up on the final day, well, it was almost surreal. Especially when he was handed the trophy. There were Singh and Thomas Bjorn, standing to the side with their runner-up medals, “and here comes Ben in his orange shirt, and you’re thinking: Did he sneak under the ropes or what?” Paramore says. “He just wasn’t ready to give a speech like that, but he did a good job, anyway.”

Paramore has no immediate plans to try the pro tour himself. He’s only 21, recently married and, frankly, can’t afford it. He’s well aware, though, of the success Fred Funk has had after years as a college coach at Maryland. And let’s not forget, he’s the reigning Ohio Amateur champ. Clearly, the man has prospects.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide