Curtis' British Open victory the best story so far in 2003

July 22, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

When the annual sports year-in-reviews come popping out at the conclusion of 2003, there will be no greater story in the world of sports than what happened at the British Open.

Ohioan Ben Curtis, a 500-to-1 shot, won the claret jug in Sandwich, England, beating the greatest golfers in the world.

Heading into the week, his probability of winning was equal to playing an even-par round of golf these days.

Curtis' victory is the biggest golf story since John Daly won the PGA Championship in 1991.

Curtis may not win another big one like this unless he maintains his composure and defies logic to win the PGA next month. He might not even do well in a PGA Tour event the rest of the year. Who knows?

One thing is for sure. Curtis' life will change like he can't imagine right now.

Curtis may not have needed an airplane to come back across the pond home.


Curtis' name is familiar in Ohio, where he won two state amateur titles to join Arnold Palmer and John Cook in that category.

Now, Curtis' name will be familiar throughout the world. He gets to play in the British Open for the next 39 years - until he is 65 - without having to worry about qualifying. He's got a five-year PGA Tour exemption and a five-year trip to the Masters.

Not bad for being an absolute nobody until his shocking performance.

Some headlines said Curtis beat Tiger Woods. He did more than that. He beat the field. He was the only golfer under par.

Hopefully, this young man will not encounter the trials and tribulations that have troubled Daly since his improbable PGA win.

n My, oh my, have the summertime sports pages changed over the years.

In the last 10 days, we've had a continuous assault of NBA news. Now we'll get our influx of NFL news with training camps set to begin.

In Julys past, the news was centered on baseball. Baseball, baseball, and more baseball. There was no other news except for baseball. Maybe a blip on the screen every so often.

Major League Baseball's once-dominant hold on sports is long gone. It has nobody to blame except itself.

You don't see kids playing wiffle ball. Goodness only knows organized summer ball is an afterthought. Neighborly kids don't ask one another: "Hey Joe, let's play some catch."

Baseball will never relive its glory days. There are far too many distractions in order to do so.

Do I really care what LeBron James is doing in summer basketball? No, no, no and more no!

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of my moving to Maryland from Ohio.

So what did I do? I headed back to the old home grounds in Eastlake, Ohio, to finally see the facility that houses the Lake County Captains of the South Atlantic League.

I had been involved in the initial discussions to a very minor degree as far back as three years ago when the original idea of a stadium was born.

The stadium grew from a worn-down corridor of nothing to become the Eastlake Ballpark. I had not seen it since the baseball season opened, so with the Hagerstown Suns on the road there, it was a viable opportunity to head back.

I told Suns broadcaster Loren Foxx: "Can't you see a place like this in Hagerstown?"

Well, yes, we all could imagine what a new park would be and look like, but the million-dollar question is one I don't need to spell out right here because I doubt there is a positive answer.

Eastlake Ballpark took $14-15 million to build, seats 6,800 with plenty of additional lawn capacity and is purely a jewel in Lake County.

Saturday's opener of the four-game series drew a South Atlantic League season-high crowd of 10,034 (the lawn was packed), and 8,000 more attended Sunday's game.

I know the Hagerstown and Tri-State area would not need a park as elaborate as Eastlake. But a new one would be nice.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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