Rich Beem explains the PGA champions’ gift-giving tradition and other details from the champions dinner

Twenty-two years ago, Rich Beem notched the biggest win of his career, and his lone major, the 2002 PGA Championship.

One of the best perks of winning the PGA is the lifetime exemption the champions can enjoy, and in the 21 years since Beem’s victory, he’s only missed two editions of the tournament.

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Now 53 years old, Beem told Subpar hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz that he wasn’t planning on playing this year, but his family convinced him to tee it up, with a promise that they would tag along to support him.

On this week’s episode of Subpar, recorded in Bardstown Bourbon Company’s tasting room in downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row, Beem shared his take on a lot of the game’s latest news, but he also shared an insider’s account of what it’s like to attend the annual PGA Champions Dinner.

The dinner’s format has changed over the years, Beem said. What used to be a grand affair that included a multitude of people has since been pared down to the PGA champions themselves and select representatives from the PGA of America.

When Beem hosted his dinner, the men were in one wing with the wives in another. While the men’s side was relatively buttoned-up, “The wives were gettin’ after it and having a blast,” Beem said. They were even treated to an impromptu speech by Paul Azinger.

These days, Beem says the dress code is more casual — no tie required.

“It’s a little more subdued,” he said.

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Unlike the Masters Champions Dinner, the previous year’s victor is not on the hook to pick up the tab, though they do select the menu. There is also a gift-giving tradition for the champs, for which the winners receive a stipend.

Beem said he opted for ostrich-skin boots with the PGA of America logo on them. Former champ Vijay Singh gave fishing equipment, Shaun Micheel gave a guitar, and Justin Thomas went with a “really nice” bottle of bourbon.

And last year? Beem couldn’t tell you. Even though he didn’t tee it up at Oak Hill, he did attend the PGA Champions Dinner. But he admitted that the night got away from him.

“I wasn’t playing, so I thought, I’m just gonna go in there and enjoy myself. And the wine they kept bringing out was just getting lovelier and lovelier,” Beem said. “And by the time they were telling us what you got as a gift, I was just — as they say in the U.K. — I was away with the fairies.”

For more from Beem, including his thoughts on John Daly, Tiger Woods and Scottie Scheffler, check out the full episode of Subpar below. Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on