Andy Bean, who won 11 times on the PGA Tour winner and three times was a runner-up in major tournament play, died on Saturday in Lakeland, Fla. He was 70.
The PGA Tour said the cause was complications of double-lung replacement surgery, which he underwent in September. He was reported to have developed severe respiratory problems after a bout with Covid-19. He was a longtime resident of Lakeland.
At 6-foot-4 and about 210 pounds, Bean was an imposing presence on the tour. In 1978, the columnist Dave Anderson of The New York Times called him “one of golf’s most appealing players.”
“He’s big and strong and emotional,” Anderson wrote. “Whether it’s a tee shot or his annoyance at a bad shot, he lets it all hang out. The other touring pros call him Li’l Abner for his strength.”
He was known to win bets in bars by biting a chunk out of the cover of a golf ball.
Bean’s best year was 1978, when he won three times, including back-to-back weeks at Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, N.C., for the Kemper Open and then at the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic in a playoff over Lee Trevino. He finished third on the money list that year.
His 11 victories — he also won twice on the Japan Golf Tour — covered 1977 to 1986. In March 1986, Bean became the first golfer on the tour to win the Doral Eastern Open, in South Florida, three times, defeating Hubert Green on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff. Bean had come back from five strokes behind with nine holes to go in regulation to force the playoff.
His 11th and final tour victory, by one stroke, came that May, at the Byron Nelson Classic, outside Dallas.
Bean also played on the Ryder Cup teams in 1979 and 1987.
In major tournaments, he made a late charge at Royal Birkdale, in northwest England, in the 1983 British Open, finishing one shot behind Tom Watson. In 1980, he finished second to 40-year-old Jack Nicklaus in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. And he was runner-up by one shot to Payne Stewart in the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes, outside Chicago.
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, Bean retired from competition in 2014 because of wrist injuries from a car accident.
Thomas Andrew Bean was born on March 13, 1953, in Lafayette, Ga., near the Tennessee border, and grew up in Jekyll Island, on the Atlantic coast. His father, Tom Bean, was a club pro. The family moved to Florida, settling in Lakeland when Andy was 15. He played golf for the University of Florida on a team that included Gary Koch, Woody Blackburn and Fred Ridley, the former U.S. Amateur champion and now chairman at Augusta National.
He is survived by his wife, Debbie; their three daughters, Ashley, Lindsay and Jordan; and grandchildren.
Aside from biting chunks out of golf balls, Bean was known for having once subdued an alligator while trying to qualify for the PGA Tour. The story got out that he had wrestled with the animal and threw it into a pond.
But he threw cold water, so to speak, on that story. The incident “was nothing big,” he told Anderson, for his Sports of The Times column. “I just saw a little five‐foot alligator once near a water hole in Florida and flipped it over by its tail. That’s easy. But the guy I was playing with made it sound like I wrestled it.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting
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