SPRINGFIELD // England’s Andrew Johnston, better known as “Beef” to fans at the PGA Championship, is having a whirlwind Broadway debut after his impressive British Open run two weeks ago.
The 27-year-old Englishman with the hefty frame and impressive beard signed an endorsement deal with quick-serve roast beef restaurant Arby’s and was handing out sandwiches this week in nearby New York.
“It has just been crazy,” Johnston said. “They said did I want to make a sandwich. I said, ‘No way, I’m too scared to do that.’ So I was just putting the stuff in the bag and shouting out people’s names.”
Johnston, who won his first European Tour title at the Spanish Open in April, is also a smash with practice-round spectators, many of whom sport fake beards and yell “Beeeeeef” whenever their man walks past at Baltusrol ahead of Thursday’s first round.
“They turned up in ginger beards,” Johnston said, finding out who bought them. “I was like, ‘Hope he’s buying all the drinks for you lot because he’s had a shocker there.’
“It’s so nice to see. I love the support and I love trying to give back my time. I actually had a big learning curve where I played a few holes and I was signing so much, I probably shouldn’t have done as much on the course, waited ‘til after.
“But it was the first real time where I’ve had that much attention. And I come off the course and I was like, ‘That was crazy. That was mad.’ It’s just a thing of trying to get the right timing to spend time with all the fans because I absolutely love it. And it means so much to me. But at the same time, you’ve got to get your practice in.
“I enjoy having a good time and having a laugh. I don’t know how many I signed. Hundreds. And then I spent about just over an hour after 18 signing stuff.”
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Don’t expect much change from Johnston even as fame overtakes him.
“I’ve just got to try and get the balance right, keep enjoying it, keep interacting with the fans, because that’s just me. That’s my personality.”
World No 1 Jason Day of Australia is on the Beef bandwagon.
“Beef? I’ve met him once. He looks like a top bloke,” said top-ranked Day.
Johnston has done impromptu chest-bump celebrations, such as after a hole-in-one at the 2015 BMW PGA Championship, and imitated the swordplay of Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez after holing a wedge shot from the fairway at the Scottish Open.
“He has definitely become a personality,” Day said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how his career goes because he sounds like he’s come from humble beginnings and he’s done a lot of work to get to the position he’s in. It’s good to see stories like that. I’m hoping he keeps the good play up, because I think we need more personalities in this game.”
But, Johnston stresses, the important thing is being true to who he is.
“As a personality and stuff, just be yourself, man, because like the more I’ve been myself, the more comfortable I’ve felt, the more I’ve just had fun, the better I’ve played,” he said.
“Be comfortable in who you are, what you do. Don’t be ashamed to be different. No matter who you are, where you are, where you’re from, people should embrace that.”
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