Andy Bean, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and three times a runner-up in the majors, died Saturday after complications from a double lung replacement surgery, the PGA Tour said. He was 70.
Bean had lung replacement surgery in September. His friend, Alan Pope, posted on Facebook at the time that Bean’s lungs had been damaged from COVID-19.
Bean was a giant of a man on the PGA Tour at 6-foot-4, and he once earned the reputation for wrestling an alligator at Q-school, a story he explained a few years later was little more than swatting it on the tail while playing alongside a player who had never seen a gator.
“I walked over to the gator, who was more scared of me than I was of him. I grabbed his tail, and he jumped back into the pond. That’s all there was to it, but the story got out that I’d been wrestling this gator and threw him into the pond,” Bean said at the Doral-Eastern Open in 1977.
His best year was 1978, when he won three times, including back-to-back weeks at Quail Hollow for the Kemper Open and the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic in a playoff over Lee Trevino. He finished third on the money list that year.
His 11 victories — he also won twice on the Japan Golf Tour — covered 1977 to 1986. Bean also played on the Ryder Cup teams in 1979 and 1987.
He made a late charge at Royal Birkdale in the 1983 British Open, finishing one shot behind Tom Watson. He also was runner-up by one shot to Payne Stewart in the 1989 PGA Championship.
Bean, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, retired from competition in 2014 because of wrist injuries from a car accident three years earlier.
Bean was born in Georgia and moved to Lakeland, Florida, when he was 15. He played college golf at Florida on a team that included Gary Koch, Woody Blackburn and Fred Ridley, the former U.S. Amateur champion and now chairman at Augusta National.