MISSOULA — Former Missoula Big Sky golfer Brian Beach hasn’t let a failed attempt at being a top-level pro golfer dishearten him like crashing waves on a desolate shoreline.
Beach instead has turned the tide and moved on to the newest chapter of his maturing life while remaining in the game he loves. He turned 30 years old in March, got married in June and went back to school in January as he chases a career working on a golf course instead of playing on one.
“When I was maybe 22 or 23, I was just dialed in on playing golf and nothing was going to distract me from that,” said Beach, who won the Montana Open over the weekend and now works as an irrigation technician at Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena. “When I got older and mature, I realized what’s important and what’s not and the sacrifices you have to make.”
Beach is hoping to one day be a superintendent running his own golf course, managing all the maintenance aspects from the course to employees to budgeting. So he decided to return to the classroom and go to Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School in New Jersey, an opportunity that he turned down before as he tried to make a playing career viable.
To work his way up the ladder, Beach spent 10 weeks at school from January through March, getting hands-on work in areas like understanding types of turfs, turf diseases and how to care for them. As school moved online, he’s back in Helena keeping a journal of what the day-to-day operations of running a course are like, learning his noxious weed identification guide and how to control that, and working on spraying, aerating and irrigating golf courses.
It’s a lot to learn, but it’s bringing Beach some peace on the course, where he used to be dialed in as a golfer who lived and died with every shot when he was in his early 20s. Now married, he’s rooted in Helena and will play fun rounds with his wife or get in some putting during his lunch breaks.
“Probably the best thing that’s happened to me is meeting my wife because I’d still be trying to play golf, still struggling, getting injured if I didn’t,” Beach said, noting they got married at Glacier National Park’s Avalanche Lake in the pouring rain June 30.
“There’s no expectations and real pressure now. If I miss an easy putt, the sun’s still going to come up tomorrow. Golf is so much more fun now that I’m not chasing it for work. You’ve got to remember why you got into it in the first place.”
Beach grew up around golf, immersing himself in the game before going to Big Sky, where he earned a 10th-place finish at the 2007 State AA meet. From there, he worked in pro shops and ground crews, moving back and forth between Palm Springs, Florida, and Missoula, where he worked at The Highlands Golf Club, Linda Vista Golf Course and Diamondback Golf.
After three years of occasional success as a full-time professional on minor tours and in Canada, Beach turned his attention to settling into a more stable career. He doesn’t get out to as many tournaments as he used to, but he plays in some scrambles and some open events a few times a year.
The latest came when he won the Montana Open at Larchmont Golf Course on Sunday, rallying from one stroke down heading into the final day to earn a one-stroke victory by shooting 12 under par. He finished ahead of Kalispell’s Ryan Malby, North Idaho men’s golf coach Russell Grove and Reid Hatley of Hayden Lake, Idaho, the last of whom won the amateur title.
Beach also got in his new favorite activity while he was in Missoula: fly fishing. He picked up the hobby from some friends about five years ago and learned from his wife how to tie flies to use when he hits the rivers on weekends.
Whether he’s on the water or on the course, it appears there are sunny days on the horizon for Beach.
“It’s been a big year for sure,” he said. “Right now, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”