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Curtis Settles Down to Play Buick Open

July 29, 2003

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) _ In less than two weeks, Ben Curtis has gone from an unknown rookie on the PGA Tour to someone famous enough to be invited into the White House and onto David Letterman’s show.

That’s what an improbable victory at the British Open will do for you.

``When I left there, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal coming home,″ the 26-year-old from Ohio said Tuesday. ``I didn’t think the country would take me in like they did, to go to Letterman and to go meet the President, that topped it off. That was just an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.″

Few knew who Curtis was when he began play in the British Open as the 396th-ranked player in the world. After winning the prestigious event on July 20, most at least recognize his name.

``You know you have to do something special for (the president) to invite you into the White House,″ Curtis said.

``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.″

Curtis will begin his quest to be more than just a one-win wonder on Thursday at the Buick Open, his first tournament since the big win. He will be in a field that includes defending champion Tiger Woods, U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Vijay Sing and Peter Jacobsen, who won last week’s Greater Hartford Open.

``I want to go out there and prove to everybody that I belong out here and that the win was no fluke,″ Curtis said. ``But, 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.″

Curtis knows his life has not only changed off the course but on it as well.

When he is introduced Thursday, he will not just be ``Ben Curtis.″ He will be, ``2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis,″ and a crowd will gather to watch.

``I know the fans will be expecting a lot more form me,″ said Curtis, who withdrew from last week’s tournament to spend time with family and friends. ``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.″

When Curtis arrived at Warwick Hills, 60 miles north of Detroit, he could not simply show up for a practice round and leave quietly. Fans gathered around the practice green watching him, and there were kids waiting for autographs when he finished.

Curtis still wasn’t done.

He was the featured attraction in the media tent, where he was peppered with questions by a slew of reporters, who he said will pose a new challenge.

``All of the eyes will be on me and they will be looking for a story,″ he said. ``I’m just going to have to try to block that out.″

Curtis, who spent the last two years on the Hooters Tour, qualified for the British Open two weeks before the major with a 13th-place finish in the Western Open. Before that, he had missed five cuts and finished between 27th and 75th at eight other tournaments this year.

``My year has been kind of up and down,″ he said. ``I would like to keep more consistent and get to that level where I can compete every week, just like Tiger does and Vijay.″

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