Deane Beman, a buoyant young man who likes his hair cut short and his cars cut low, is the prospering proof that amateur golf can yield up a spectacular living to the sportsman energetic enough and shrewd enough to play the angles as well as he plays his shots. This can be done without recourse to cash prizes, under-the-table payments, fraudulent betting coups or any of the other nimble trappings of semiprofessional-ism. It can be done merely by selling—selling insurance, selling oil or lumber or stocks or even good will—and it only partly matters if the salesman is good. As long as his golf is good, other golfers will buy from him—and generously.
In recent years dozens of amateurs have discovered this delightful idiosyncrasy of the American golfing public, but few of them have capitalized on it with quite the unflinching determination that characterizes Deane Randolph Beman. One very good reason is that almost none of them can play golf as well as Beman, who at 23 has already won the British Amateur (1959), been named to two Walker Cup teams and last year won the U.S. Amateur Championship. Last week in Seattle, Beman teamed with Jack Nicklaus to beat James Walker and Brian Chapman 6 and 5 in the foursomes, then won 3 and 2 over British Amateur Champion Mike Bonallack as he helped the U.S. retain the Walker Cup, 11 matches to one. Next week he will defend his Amateur Championship against 199 golfers at Pebble Beach.
Born into a family of middle-class means and still without his college degree (he dropped out of the University of Maryland when his business and golf commitments became too heavy), Beman has industriously transformed his golfing titles and talents into a fully equipped, air-conditioned, five-bedroom house in a comfortable growing suburb of Washington, D.C.; also into a fully equipped, air-conditioned 1961 Thunderbird sedan for himself and a 1961 Comet for his wife Miriam; and into an insurance business that probably will make him a millionaire before he is 30.
On a recent summer morning Beman stood in the front hall of his fresh new house in Bethesda, Md., about to begin a typically businesslike workday. After saying goodby to his two daughters—Amy, who will be 3 next month, and Priscilla, born last January—he stared dolefully at three tall and bulky silver golf trophies that squatted on the floor. He had held them for a year and it was now time to return them to tournament sponsors.
September 10, 1961
"I'll crate these up and send them out tonight, I promise," he called to Miriam, who was in the kitchen stuffing breakfast dishes into the automatic dishwasher. He ignored the muffled but clearly dubious reply and slipped into the jacket of his neat, dark summer suit. The summer air smote him with a furnace blast as he stepped from the cool of the house into the front yard, but he hurried down the walk with the same crisp, jaunty stride that carries him around a golf course and slid under the wheel of his maroon Thunderbird. Beman enjoys driving this car, but he considers it less a luxury than a business asset. "Looking successful is going to help you be successful," he says with more conviction than originality. "When you drive up in a car like this people get the idea that you solid mean business." (Solid is a word Beman frequently tosses into sentences for emphasis. To be a business success, he says, you have to "solid like to sell.")
The picture of solid success, Beman was now headed toward his office in Arlington, Va., about 30 minutes by car. Here he and his 29-year-old partner, Bill Buppert, a longtime golfing companion, head up Beman & Buppert Associates, an insurance brokerage firm that handles business and industrial clients mainly in the East but sometimes in places as far distant as California. As he drove, slouched low in the bucket seat, his white straw hat tipped forward on his light-red hair, his fingertips toying casually, insolently with the steering wheel, Beman explained the workings of the company that he and Buppert had formed a year and a half before.
"We've worked out a unique program," he said. "Once we've made an agreement with a company, we go in and help service their existing employee-benefit program, acquaint the employees with their benefits under this program and then sit down individually with each person to work out just how much additional life insurance he needs. This is done through us on a purely individual, optional basis, but the main advantage to the employee is that he can have-his premiums deducted from his paycheck. We have found that better than one in four will take out a policy with us.
"Naturally, the company has to buy the idea before we can put it into effect, but our approach is a strictly informal one. We figure we have to go right to the top man, or the head operations man, anyway, and throw the idea at him. It solid has to click with him. If he buys the concept then the battle's half won. The sales stimulus now comes from the top down. Right? Right."
The two young men have been so successful at tossing their ideas at the top men that they expect to produce an estimated 5250,000 in new life-insurance premiums this year. At 50% to 60% in commissions, this amounts to at least $125,000 net, and does not include stock options that B. & B. frequently get. This figure would make them one of the major underwriters of personal life insurance in metropolitan Washington, an area that encompasses some 1,500 agents and general agents. They've had no offers, but the company's potential is so great that both say they wouldn't sell out now for even $1 million in cash.
Old high school friends may be startled by the figure, but using hindsight they could have guessed Deane Beman would do well. A skinny boy of medium height, Beman was something of a super-active rascal. "He was the type who'd always park in the teachers' parking lot and cut afternoon classes," recalls Miriam Beman, who started dating her husband at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. "When I'd meet him after school, he'd be surrounded by half a dozen glowering teachers. But he'd tell a funny story, they'd all laugh and he'd whiz right off. Then he'd drive to school the next day and park in the teachers' lot again."
Beman has so much brass that while waiting to take Miriam Orndorff out on a date he would recount to a horrified Mrs. Orndorff numerous, if wholly imaginative, disasters that had befallen the Beman family. Even Beman's longtime golfing friend and principal rival for the Amateur Championship, Jack Nicklaus, has learned to appreciate his artistry with a yarn. "Deane can be a great talker," says Nicklaus. "When he starts telling some of his stories you've got to take the square root of what he says and divide by eight to get anywhere near the truth."
A fine athlete
While Beman may have been a light-hearted storyteller, he was also a proficient and serious athlete. As a junior-high-school undergraduate he starred for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase recreation center 125-pound football team. On defense he was a vicious tackier. On offense he played right halfback and, though not exceptionally fast, he was as slippery as a wild piston, pumping his knees so high when he carried the ball that he proved a difficult target to tackle. The year he was 13, in fact, he scored 125 of his team's 158 points.
Beman started playing golf when he was 12. His father, Delmar Jr., is a former football player, golfer and, during high school days, a 220-yard sprinter. Father Beman's nervous energy makes even his restless son seem sleepy by comparison. Delmar wasted no time getting his family into golf. He came home from his public relations job one day, announced that he had just joined the Bethesda Country Club, and produced six sets of $34.95 golf clubs: one for himself, one for Mrs. Beman, and one each for the four Beman children, Arlene, Del III, Louis and Deane, the youngest. Deane, however, didn't really begin to take the game seriously until he was 15, but was almost immediately a winner. While still 15, he was low qualifier from the Washington area for the National Junior. At 16 he went south and pulled a big surprise by winning the South Florida Amateur. And at 17 he qualified for the U.S. Open, one of the youngest golfers ever to do so.
It was not until the spring of 1959, when Beman was 21, that he first gained national prominence. He played in Great Britain on the Walker Cup team and then, though his cash ran out, stayed on to score an astonishing victory in the British Amateur.
"I was solid the worst player on the Walker Cup squad," Beman admits, "but I was determined to play myself back into form." Beman hit 200 practice shots a day, then, when the tournament began, marched steadily through the Amateur. Leonard Crawley, the London Daily Telegraph golf writer, was so impressed by Beman that he described him as "'a magnificent player, fierce, mechanical, methodical and utterly efficient." This is an ecstatic, yet still accurate, description of Beman in action on a golf course. It is when Beman holds a putter in his hands that he is at his efficient best. Beman himself feels that putting is the essence of his game. "I don't mind being outdriven," he says, "but I start getting mad if the fellow I'm playing with outputts me."
Beman describes his putting stroke as "a little wrist, a little arm, a little shoulder," but in its most vital element the shaft of the putter rests between the pads at the base of the left hand, not under the bottom pad. "This grip just solid keeps the club face square," he says. "There's almost no way you can pull the putt." Beman developed his stroke in high school through hours spent at night on the sparsely lighted practice green at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, near the Beman home. Often the patient Miriam would be with him. "I don't know what my mother believed when I told her we'd spent the evening out putting," Miriam says, "but I guess I would have gone anywhere Deane wanted me to go."
The result of all this practice is a putting grip, stance and stroke that seem as effortless as breathing. "Look at that stroke!" exclaims Nicklaus, who coils excruciatingly over his own putts like a man searching for four-leaf clovers. "It has feel, it has touch written all over it. How he can putt so well under pressure I don't know. He must have no nerves at all."
"Jack may be right," agrees Beman. "If I had jumpy nerves and got excited on the green when the going was rough I probably wouldn't have a chance. But if your nerves are tough enough this is the best way to putt."
Obviously, the same qualities of toughness and confidence, plus a frank, open manner, help make Beman the superb salesman he is and a perfect contact man for Beman & Buppert Associates. Beman started selling insurance for Bill Buppert while majoring in business at Maryland. Buppert, a Maryland economics major who left school in 1951, is a big, dark, round-faced man with a slow drawl and a fast eye for a dollar. He went into the insurance business in 1954 after two years as an assistant golf professional. By 1960 Buppert knew so much about insurance and Beman had corralled so many accounts that the two incorporated the present partnership. The firm is housed in a modern five-room office and consists of themselves, a sales force of five and an office staff of two.
Beman's current share of the lush harvest (aside from his co-ownership) is a drawing account of $1,000 per month, two company-paid-for cars and a golfing expense account of some $6,000 per year. "I don't know what Joe Dey over at the USGA would think about that," Beman says of the golf expense item, "but since the company's half mine it seems legitimate enough. It's certainly a legitimate tax deduction."
A company asset
The taxes, of course, are a matter between Deane Beman and the U.S. Government. There is no doubt, however, that Beman's many tournament, pro-am, member-guest and social appearances are among the company's biggest assets. They bring him into close contact with countless business and industrial leaders, most of whom are delighted to throw some insurance his way.
"Here's a typical example of how this works," said Beman, sitting at his desk and showing a letter from a California airplane executive. "I met this fellow on the practice tee when I was playing in a member-guest over at Burning Tree. He's invited me to come down and play his course in L.A. while I'm in California for the Amateur. When I play down there I'll maybe meet several other aircraft people. I'm certain a few of them will be interested in our insurance ideas."
It is, of course, vital to Beman these days to keep his golf game at championship level. Unfortunately, the more he becomes involved in the intricacies of fringe benefit insurance, the more his game suffers. "Right now," he explains, "my game is sort of dormant. I haven't had time to practice the refinements [mostly lengthening his tee shots] I've been trying to work into it. But in a couple of years I expect to be able to get away from the paper work and concentrate on making contacts. Then I'll have a chance to practice and pick my spots. I see no reason why I can't compete on an even basis with the pros and someday win the Masters or the Open, or both, as an amateur."
These are ambitious goals that have eluded most of the best golfers in the world, but Deane Beman is industrious enough to match his ambition. No one knows any better than he that Beman the Masters and Beman the Open champion could also be solid Beman the multimillionaire.