A sign indicating the direction of Mill Creek Golf Club in Ostrander sits rusted and aging at the intersection of State Rt. 257 and Penn Road. It's even partially-obscured by overgrown tree branches.

A sign indicating the direction of Mill Creek Golf Club in Ostrander sits rusted and aging at the intersection of State Rt. 257 and Penn Road. It's even partially-obscured by overgrown tree branches.

Pulling into the parking lot, one can't help but be at least a little surprised there isn't a grand new sign touting the family-owned and -operated course as the boyhood home of Ben Curtis, now a PGA Tour veteran who stunned the golf world as a rookie in 2003 when he won golf's oldest major championship, the British Open.

"We're the same simple people. And I don't think Ben would like something like that, anyway," his mother, Janice, said. "He's never really been one to draw attention to himself."

She contends that Curtis hasn't changed much since he won the British Open nearly six years ago - becoming the first player since Francis Ouimet at the U.S. Open in 1913 to win in his first appearance in a major - and days later found himself hitting golf balls off a New York City rooftop with David Letterman. He even got married with a simple ceremony later that summer, squeezing in the occasion between rounds at what is now known as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.

"The morning he won the British Open I got here at 5:30 to mow and Channel 10 (WBNS-10TV) had a big truck set up out front. But once things settled down, it's pretty much been business as usual for all of us," Curtis' father, Bob, said. "Not much has changed here, really. I guess there's a picture of Ben (holding the Claret Jug) in our club room and there's a scrapbook lying around somewhere, but we haven't done a whole lot. He wouldn't be happy if we did."

If the couple's oldest child hasn't changed after finding sudden fame and fortune at Royal St. George's in England, where he banked more than $1.1 million after earning a spot in the British Open field just two weeks earlier and modestly displayed the trophy for curious gawkers of all walks of life on the flight home, it in large part is because of the values passed on by parents who always cared enough to consider the bigger picture.

Curtis, who has an endorsement deal with Reebok to wear NFL apparel at PGA Tour events and is the first to do so since the late Payne Stewart, had career earnings of more than $8 million entering this year and is coming off his best overall season. He's visited President George W. Bush in the White House, and he's become an even more recognizable athletic figure on the continent where the game was invented than he is in the United States.

Still, Curtis so far hasn't been sidetracked by many of the trappings of success that have felled so many other athletes.

"He's the same old Ben he was as a 13-year-old kid running around here," said his father, who coached basketball at Buckeye Valley High School for 15 years and was a youth baseball coach when his son was young. "He's grown up and matured quite a bit, though. And I guess he's got more toys then he's ever had, too. But mostly he's the same old Ben."

The toys included a series of new cars, beginning with a BMW that was bought soon after winning the British Open. It sported license plates reading "03OC," which identified Curtis as the 2003 Open Champion.

"That's out of character a little bit," his father said. "He's pretty good about saving his money, really. When the day comes, I don't think he'll have any problems retiring."

Curtis, who has a degree in recreation management from Kent State, and his wife, Candace, have two children, including 2-year-old son Liam. They used to travel frequently with Curtis but that's hasn't been the case as often since their 17-month-old daughter Addison was born, Bob said.

Curtis and his family live in Stow and own a second home in Orlando. They are planning to rent a house at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin for the first time for next week's Memorial Tournament. They have stayed with his parents every other year.

"That'll give the grandkids more room to spread out," Bob Curtis said. "They'll be more comfortable, but we'll sure miss having them here with us for the week. We don't get to see them enough."

The couple has seen enough to know that Curtis and his wife are facing certain parental obstacles they never dreamed of.

"Their children are already living a bigger lifestyle than Ben ever did," Bob Curtis said. "That's the challenge for them."

Still, the couple remains confident Curtis and his wife will pass on similar values. His father said he often resists making a new purchase because of cost, and that Candace had to coax him into splurging on himself and buy the BMW.

"Ben never wanted for much. He just wanted to play golf," his mother said. "And even now, he doesn't spend his money on goofy stuff even although he could. He's making good decisions."
He's also following a strong example.

Janice, who owns Mill Creek along with her five sisters, grew up in a house on the eighth hole but still can be found working the front desk. Bob, who grew up in Radnor, is the course superintendent and spends far more time mowing than playing golf. Their youngest son, Nick, 30, attended Columbus State.

"You always hear how people think you have to be a member at a country club if you want to make it in golf, but that's the kind of thinking that can put you down the wrong road," Curtis' father said.

"We're fortunate Ben's never been like that. He had a modest upbringing and he's surrounded himself with good people since he got on the tour, too, like the people at IMG (management) and his (swing) coach, Steve Johnson (of Hank Haney Golf)."

As a child, Curtis was encouraged by his parents - but only to a point.

"He wanted to play (golf) from morning until night but we made sure he did other things, too, like 4-H and the other sports he liked," his mother said. "We didn't want to see him burn out. You have to let kids be kids, and we just wanted Ben to be happy. We never imagined this is where he'd end up. He'd probably tell you the same thing."

Still, the 6,300-yard public course on a narrow two-lane country road that sits about 20 minutes north of the site of next week's PGA Tour stop yet is worlds away from the pristine surroundings of Muirfield Village, has benefited from Curtis' success.

"Oh, he's brought in a lot of business. Everyone wants to play the course where Ben grew up," his mother said. "And every dollar helps in this economy."