July 29, 2003
GRAND BLANC, MICHIGAN
TODD BUDNICK: Ben, congratulations, first off, and tell us about the experience, winning the British Open.
BEN CURTIS: Oh, wow. The whole experience was awesome. To be able to go over there in advance and to get to see a little bit of the sites and get to know the course pretty well beforehand before the tournament started and just going through the whole week was just an unbelievable feeling, to play with those guys and compete with them at the highest level. Fortunately, to come out on top, for me, was awesome.
TODD BUDNICK: Talk about walking up 18. At that point you struggled and you're thinking, okay, I finish second place perhaps, and next thing you know, you're at the practice range and now you're a champion. Talk about the experience of walking up 18 and finding out you're a champion.
BEN CURTIS: It's pretty funny, because on Sunday the week before the tournament I told my caddie that it would be pretty cool to walk up there at 5:30. When we walked up there on 18, it was 5:30. That was a pretty good feeling to know that we talked about it, and to know what to expect. The fans treated me awesome over there, and it was a great feeling to walk up there. They treated me as if I was their own and that was awesome. Knowing I needed to make that putt; I didn't know at the time that it would be that crucial.
TODD BUDNICK: You received all sorts of calls, you've done a lot of media appearances and things. Talk about the fame that's come with the Championship.
BEN CURTIS: Well, you know, when I left there I didn't think it would be that big of a deal coming home. I didn't think the country would take me in like they did, and to be able to do all that, to go to Letterman and go to New York and do some things there and go meet the President yesterday, that topped it off.
For me that was just an unbelievable experience and once-in-a-lifetime.
TODD BUDNICK: Does it ever sink, in that first major championship appearance, that first major championship win?
BEN CURTIS: When I was playing, I didn't really think about that, but once it was done, I had totally forgot that it was my first major. You know, it's a feeling that goes through your body when you're out there, it is unbelievable.
TODD BUDNICK: So you are set on the PGA TOUR for five years. What does this do for your mindset and your game? You don't have to worry about struggling anymore like you were earlier in the year.
BEN CURTIS: For me it takes pressure off me; that knowing that going into the British it was a matter of, I wanted to keep my card. Now that I have it for five years, that's pretty neat.
I think it will take a lot of the load off the shoulders I believe be able to go out there and just compete without any worries.
Q. How anxious are you to get back out there, to see if the magic is still there, whether the dream continues? And is that one of the reasons why you're playing here?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, you know, later last week, Thursday or Friday, I was pretty tired and I was actually anxious to get back out there and play again. You know coming here is a big relief, to be able to get out there. And I feel at peace because I'm out there and I'm able to enjoy myself. I feel like the golf course is a home for me.
Q. Were you expecting big crowds today?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I didn't know really what to expect. First time back, you could expect 10,000 people or you could expect 100 people. But, you know, I enjoyed . It there was still a lot of people out there, and it was fun.
Q. You're kind of still living this, aren't you?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, a little bit. Since my first time back to meet with the guys, they have all been great, coming over and shaking my hand. You know, that's a good feeling, to know that they were there to support me.
Q. Was there one event that stands out more than any as far as since then that means the most to you, was it meeting the president, being on Letterman, was there one that really stands out as showing you how big this was?
BEN CURTIS: I think meeting the President. You know you have to do something special for him to invite you into the White House. So I think that the biggest thing. And even Letterman was big, too.
Q. What do you talk about?
BEN CURTIS: We just talked about normal stuff. He's a down-to-earth guy and a great guy to meet. For a President to be that way, it's special.
Q. With all that going through your head and you're going through all this, how do you dial it back into what's going on this weekend? I would think meeting the President would stick with you for a long time; how do you all of a sudden concentrate on trying to win it out here?
BEN CURTIS: Once you get back on the golf course, you can just take all the worries behind and just let them go and just be able to concentrate on what you have to do. You feel comfortable out there and no one can really bother you. You can just concentrate on what you're doing. That's how I take it.
Q. From winning the tournament to the things that have happened afterwards, has it been a little bit overwhelming?
BEN CURTIS: Of course. Coming from virtually unknown to the No. 1 guy in golf at the time, it's very overwhelming, but I'm riding the wave right now and it's a lot of fun.
Q. Are you more surprised now, I remember at the press conference in Sandwich, you said you were surprised, but you were not surprised because you had confidence in your game. Now that you've had time to reflect on it, are you amazed now, if you weren't then, at what you've accomplished and how you accomplished it?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I think everything that I went through was amazing. But I knew that when it came down to crunch time, I knew my game was right, especially for championship golf. You just go out there and keep it around par and give yourself a chance and that's what I did. That doesn't surprise me because I know that I can handle it.
Q. Winning a major as your first tournament, what are your plans now for your future as far as winning again?
BEN CURTIS: I think for me just to keep getting better and to get more consistent. My year has been kind of up-and-down. I would like to keep more consistent, get to that level where I can compete every week, just like Tiger does, and Vijay, to get to that level and compete every week, and hopefully give myself a chance to win a few more times.
Q. You said that your best game is on those championship courses where you need to be just around par. How does that make you feel coming into this tournament where the winner will most likely be far below?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I feel good. The course sets up good for me. It's not a super long course, and if you keep it in the fairways, you're going to give yourself quite a few chances to make birdie.
You know, I know that I can get 3- or 4-under par each day, and if I do that, I'll give myself a good chance.
Q. You talked about the thought process of deciding to play on your wedding day, are you finalizing that decision?
BEN CURTIS: I think I'm going to play that week. I just made that decision, so I'm going to play and hopefully everything will work out and it should be a great day.
Q. When is the wedding?
BEN CURTIS: August 23rd.
Q. Is your fiancee here?
BEN CURTIS: She's not here, no.
Q. When you said you talked about "normal" things with President Bush, did you give us any specific topics?
BEN CURTIS: Well, we talked about sports and kind of how we had similar backgrounds; how he was very tight with his family, just like I am. Just stuff like that, just how his values of family means a lot.
Q. Were you a Bush supporter; you voted for him?
BEN CURTIS: Oh, yeah. Well, I didn't vote. But yeah, I'm a big supporter of what he's done for this country.
Q. I'm sure you have an idea of what it meant to the people in Ohio when you returned home. Being so close here in Michigan, do you expect a lot of friends and just people from Ohio to come here and see you this week?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I think a lot of the family is going to come up Thursday and Friday. So it will be a lot of fun to get to see them, spend a little more time with them. It's always nice to play near home, because you feel like -- for me, growing up in the Midwest, you feel like you're at home.
Q. If you could just explain what happened on Letterman when you were talking about Tiger? The way it was reported in the newspapers, I don't think they got the full story.
BEN CURTIS: Well, earlier in the show, a horse mistakenly went to the bathroom on stage. I made a joke -- as soon as I said it, I said aroma -- how do you feel about playing -- what's it like playing with Tiger. I said, "He's got an aroma about it." David was laughing so hard I couldn't get the "or" out. It was a lot of fun. He's a great guy. We made the best of it.
Q. Did you take the President a gift of golf or anything like that?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I just gave him up with of my putters that I had and signed the head cover.
Q. Before winning the British, what would you consider was the biggest thing you had done in golf, biggest accomplishment or achievement?
BEN CURTIS: When our team, the USA, won the World Amateur over in Germany. That was 2000. That was -- it's like the Olympics of golf. You know it's a lot of fun and very team-oriented. Obviously this is a lot bigger, but at the time that was huge.
Q. As much as your family, especially with your grandfather's relationship, what was it like getting back and finally being able to celebrate with your family as a whole after winning the British Open?
BEN CURTIS: Oh, it was great. You know, to be able to sit down with all of my uncles and aunts and my cousins, sit down and just talk and have a good time and reflect on everything that happened, they kind of went through what they were thinking and going through at the time, where they were. To be able to go through that was a lot of fun, and we talked about grandpa quite a bit.
Q. During your round, especially on Sunday, did you allow yourself to reflect back to what your grandfather did in introducing you to the game and the impact that he and your father had on you?
BEN CURTIS: Definitely. He taught me to stay very patient and calm under the pressure. He said: No matter what, just kind of keep going and don't get too high or too low. That obviously helped on Sunday. I just went out there and treated each shot like it was the most important shot at the time.
Q. Starting tomorrow, I guess, you will be introduced as "the British Open Champion," and I always wondered what that was like for a player after having been introduced as no champion at all. What do you think that's going to be like from here on out?
BEN CURTIS: You know, I'm going to take it and show a lot of pride. It's going to be a lot of fun. Everybody is going to be supporting me. I know the fans will be expecting a lot more from me. I'm just going to go out there and continue what I've been doing and hopefully I'll keep getting better and have a chance to win a few more.
Q. Have any of the veteran guys called you or perhaps talked to you out here today about what it takes to go from winning one major to being somebody who is going to be in contention to win lots of major, lots of tournaments?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I think more than anything, they just continue to say: Just be yourself, just keep working hard and your talent will allow you to get to that level. I think more than anything, they just say: Just be yourself and continue doing what you've been doing.
Q. Anyone specifically talk to you?
BEN CURTIS: Oh, not really. A whole bunch of guys came up to me today and just congratulated me, just saying, "Keep up the good work."
Q. Obviously you have the Open Championship; you have your exemption. Do you feel any pressure to follow that up now and prove that it was not a one-hit wonder?
BEN CURTIS: Oh, sure. I want to go out and prove to everybody that I belong out here and that the win was no fluke. But, you know, time will tell. I feel that it should not just be based on this week or the next few weeks. It should be based on between now and next summer.
Q. You just talked about the fans having a greater expectations of you, what sort of expectations do you now have of yourself and how much greater are those expectations than what they were before three weeks ago?
BEN CURTIS: Well, each week, I'm going to set goals, and I think they are going to be reflective to how I'm playing; and I'm going to go out there and try to win every week, of course. I'm going to go out there and take it one day at a time and just try to keep getting better and more consistent.
My goal is obviously to win every week, and if I can get a few more high finishes and keep building the confidence, I think in the near future I'll have more wins.
Q. I talked to Craig Perks, and he said after he won THE PLAYERS, the thing that really took him by storm was the presence of the media -- what a surprise. What do you think will be the biggest changes that you will have to deal with now that you've won the British Open?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I think the media is one thing; all of the eyes will be on me and they will be looking for a story. I'm just going to have to try to block that out and just continue what I've been doing, just go out there and have fun and enjoy the game. I think that's going to be the biggest thing more than anything, the media and the expectations from the fans.
Q. As a spin-off to that, what's it been like to answer more questions in two weeks than you have in your golf life? And how bad was your game, because we didn't pay attention, were there any career crossroads or did you question your career choice or how bad was it?
BEN CURTIS: I never doubted myself. I was the No. 1 amateur when I turned pro, so I knew I had the game. It was just a matter of time for me, just had to get a little bit comfortable, especially had you rely on Q-School every year; that's a tough thing to do. To make it through the third year I was very pleased. I figured if I could do it within the first fives year, that would be nice. I figured once I got there, that I had the game for this level. It was just a matter of time. There's so many good players out there that are not out here now, but they will be soon, and I think the test of time is what proves people.
BEN CURTIS: I don't mind it. It's fun. I'm just kind of riding the wave.
Q. Obviously, a lot of people know your name, do people know your face when you're out in public away from home in Ohio? When you're up here in Michigan, do people recognize you at gas station or grocery stores or the airport?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I just flew in this morning, so I'll find out tonight and tomorrow. Back home especially, we went out to eat one night and we had to hide in the corner. But it's just a lot of the attention has been on me think in time it will die down a little bit.
Q. How about in New York City when you were there?
BEN CURTIS: Well, we just kind of went in and out of the car real quick. We got dropped off right at the door. And we went there to eat and there was a few people, but not overwhelming.
Q. Some players who win a championship suddenly have a lot of decisions to make about the type of equipment, contracts that they want to sign, other sponsorships. It seems that you're pretty set with your situation; is that true, and if so, do you think that will be an asset to you?
BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I've been with Kens attire (ph) now for three years and Titleist for seven or eight years. I'm very pleased with what they have done for me. They have given me a lot of support and we'll just take the opportunities as they come.
Q. Was today your first time back out on a golf course?
BEN CURTIS: Well, I've been out a few times, but today was the first real long test.
Q. How nice was it just to be out on the course, playing and not have anyone bothering you and just playing?
BEN CURTIS: Well, it felt good. When we got done, I was joking with Cliff; it seemed like it went by really quickly. Seemed like I could have played another 18. It felt good and I enjoyed it. We had a good group and we just had fun.
TODD BUDNICK: We thank you for stopping by today and we wish you good luck this week.
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