The hand of the magician
Words: Aaron Schmidt
Photos: Zach Cordner
Born and raised in Ireland and the UK in the late 40s, Peter Beames is a world-renowned teacher of golf. Known for his exceptional skills and teaching methods, Peter wrote a legendary golf instruction book called Walk Thru To Par and has instructed some of the greatest players in the history of the game.
The Osider recently caught up with Peter in his work loft at Linksoul, and here’s what he had to say about life, golf, and the pursuit of happiness.
Where did you grow up, Peter?
I grew mostly close to Liverpool in the UK about 40 miles from Dublin, Ireland, where I was born.
What was it like growing up there?
Well, in my day, it was kind of like the border. If you were in Ireland, the thing to do was get to England, and that’s what my father did. I was very small then. When you got to eight years of age, to be in the societal upper crust, supposedly you were sent away to school—and that devastated me. It made them—it destroyed me.
What were you into as a kid?
How did you get into golf?
My father started me when I was three years old in Wales. On holidays, people from the cities would go about 150 miles, which in those days, would’ve taken about four or five hours to get to the coast. My father, being a lawyer, rented a house for a month. So when I was three, I was playing golf with a cut down club. I got serious about golf when I went to join the army and the guy started to tell me what I was going to do.
Oh, so you joined the army?
No, I did not [laughs]. I remember him starting with my mother, telling me what to do. That wasn’t the way I played tin soldiers—I told the tin soldiers what to do. This was when I was about sixteen or seventeen.
What kind of schooling did you have?
British boarding schools are ten times more advanced than anything in America and I’m not saying that arrogantly. I mean, we were fluent in Latin and Greek—not that I think that it did me any good. I told people that I went to Princeton—and I did—to clean golf clubs.
Were you playing golf during that time?
There was a great span of time where I didn’t play—I think I started again when I was about fourteen.
When did you come to the United States and why here?
I came here in 1968 to become the greatest golfer in the world. And in 1970, there could be a case made that for 24 hours, I was the greatest golfer in the world because I was leading Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino.
So you were pro then?
Yes, I turned pro very quickly because in my day, you could basically go out and say you were a “pro” and play in the German Open or Dutch Open. You weren’t any good, but you were a pro. I turned pro when I was eighteen.
Okay, you originally came to the States in the late 60s, were you bouncing back and forth from the US to the UK back then?
Yeah, I eventually ended up in California staying with my brother in La Jolla, where you could get a gallon of gas for like ten cents or something. At that time, I was hopeless. This is a great story for people who are homeless. I went off to South Africa and competed and the whole year of ’68 I never qualified. They were great golfers, but there’d only be probably 150 players and I wasn’t even making the cut in that. But the next year, I finished 4th in the South Africa PGA.
Did you ever compete in the PGA here?
I came over to the States and I played about six or seven Monday qualifying’s in 1976 and I actually Monday qualified for the Ed McMahon Open. I met Ed and told him that I didn’t know who he was and he had a big laugh. I played in the Westchester Classic, and that was about my only time on the US PGA. When I finished the tour in 1981, I was living in Leucadia. I wrote my book Walk Thru To Par while I was on the beach hitting golf balls.
When did that book come out?
It came out in 1984. It’s my first published book. I’ve got many book projects in the works—The Making Of A Golfer and The Template, to name a few. And then I’ve been working on my book, The Boy Who Rode Clouds as well.
What’s The Boy Who Rode Clouds all about?
The Boy Who Rode Clouds is a very simple story. The universe is a perfect “8.” This has been found to be true. In this “8,” there’re thirteen dimensions and when The Book Of All Knowledge is stolen, the main dimension is fractured into a question mark. That’s where we are in life. And this boy, Jimmy Runcorn, is the one has to cross the mortal coil and go through life’s trials and tribulations and connect the question mark back into the “8.” It’s a simple as that.
How did you get the nickname “The Professor?”
I think John Ashworth gave it to me. I don’t particularly like it. It’s very pretentious.
What’s your affiliation with John and Linksoul?
So I knew John when he was seventeen and a ball boy at La Costa Resort. Apparently, he tells me I gave him a lesson, which was the greatest lesson ever. He was my guinea pig for Walk Thru To Par. He got into a college in Arizona and became number one on their golf team. Many years later, I met him again in the 90s at La Costa and he told me that he was going to make me famous. So I ended up becoming the “little man” on his Ashworth golf shirts. They did a whole marketing thing about it. When John sold his company to Adidas and decided to do Linksoul, I don’t think there was any discussion to join him—I came along on his coat strings. He’s been tremendously kind and I’ve been very fortunate to have him and Jeffrey Cunningham—his business partner—in my life.
What’s your connection with Goat Hill Park?
Well, we were one of the people who saved it. I go to Goat Hill frequently—I’ve been playing there for 30 years. I’m available for lessons much of the time.
What’s your philosophy on life?
My philosophy is “giving is living and living is giving.” It’s not all about money because if you do good things and help people out—the universe will pay you.