ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Much has transpired in the life of Rich Beem since he won last year's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis.
Beem went from being a journeyman to a major champion. He found himself secure and confident among his peers, including the player he beat by a stroke, Tiger Woods.
Yet nothing that's happened to Beem since could match what happened to him last month, when he became a first-time father.
"I always knew I was going to be a father some day, but to be real honest with you, I wasn't too sure how I was going to handle it until the day he was born," Beem said yesterday. "I didn't read any books. I didn't go to any Lamaze classes. I didn't know what to expect. Now I know."
Beem brought cigars with him to hand out at Oak Hill, where he will defend his title when the 85th PGA Championship opens today. He brought pictures, including an enlarged photograph of his baby son, Michael, sitting in the Wanamaker Trophy.
Now comes the question: Will Beem be able to get off the cloud he has been sitting on since his son was born to concentrate on golf? Last week, in his first appearance since becoming a father, he missed the cut at The International, the tournament he won before last year's PGA Championship.
"I'm hitting the ball better than I ever have in my life," said Beem, 32. "I'm swinging it great. I'm very comfortable with every part of my game, where I thought last year I had weaknesses. I still have weaknesses, but they're not so dramatic.
"But it's going to be a tough day [today], playing with Tiger and David [Toms, the 2001 PGA champion] and the huge crowds. I don't mind playing in front of the big crowds, but they are going to be vocal and boisterous and it's going to be different. I'm going to be nervous, but I'm excited as well."
If it's a long way from where Beem was prior to the PGA, so is Beem. He is no longer the party animal who co-wrote a diary called "Bud, Sweat and Tears" about his life before and right after winning the 1999 Kemper Open, his first PGA victory.
"As soon as I won the Kemper Open, I was with a friend of mine driving home from the golf course that evening, and I said to him, `I think I can do this again,' " Beem recalled. "All of a sudden, I have some pretty down years and almost lose my card in 2001.
"More than anything else, these last two wins have given me a calmness in my life."
Not that last year's victories carried into this year's performances. If anything, Beem had something of a professional hangover from all the traveling he did toward the end of last year, when he pursued some big-dollar appearance fees in tournaments overseas.
"As far as going and chasing the money last year, I've got no regrets about that," Beem said. "I'll go back and chase it again if the offers are still available. I used to make fun of the guys that go into the Silly Season events, but that's because I wasn't invited."
Beem started this year by finishing 36th in the Mercedes Championships, then missed the cut in the next three events he played. After a tie for 10th in the Nissan Open and a first-round loss in the Match Play Championships, he's missed another three cuts in a row. His best finish this year is a second place in the Western Open.
"At the beginning of the year, I did put more pressure on myself than I probably should have," Beem said. "But I think that's just [human] nature. You always strive to become a better player than you were yesterday. I thought since I won a major championship, I thought damned sure I should be there every week. That's probably never been my game and probably never will, unfortunately.
"Now, I deal with it. I'm probably more relaxed about it now. I try not to get so down on myself for more than a period of a day or so, because I'm pretty hard on myself when I don't play well. I'm able to bounce back a little bit easier now. The way I handle it now is I sit back, probably have a few beers, look at my bank account and laugh."
Beem's bank account has grown prodigiously since the days when he was excited about winning the Kemper because of all the stereo equipment he would be able to put in his car. There have been several more cars and a lot more grown-up toys.
But his marriage last year and the birth of his son have given him a different perspective. He finds himself doing things he never expected - changing diapers and doing loads of laundry for starters - and acting like an adult most of the time.
"I'm just taking care of them," he said of his family. "And to me, it feels so good to do that."
At the champions' dinner here Tuesday night, Beem found himself in conversation with some of the other past champions who are playing this week or attending the pre-tournament festivities, including Woods and Byron Nelson.
"There's no way I could have ever have a conversation with Tiger Woods or anybody else without my tongue feeling 9 feet long and getting about half of what I'm trying to say out," Beem said.
"But winning a major championship and just being on the PGA Tour, people understand that and respect that and that's nice to know. That's why I'm a lot more comfortable with what I do and who I am."
Beem is a lot more than he was when he came to Hazeltine a year ago.
He's a major champion.
More importantly, he's a father, the most challenging and most satisfying role he has ever played.
At a glance
What:85th PGA Championship
When:Today through Sunday
Where:Oak Hill Country Club (East course), Rochester, N.Y.
TV:Today and tomorrow, TNT at 1 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, TNT at 11 a.m., chs. 13, 9 at 2 p.m.