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The paths (and downfalls) of Tiger, M.J. and Skipper



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Skipper's End

We might not have ever witnessed Jordan and Woods on a Charlotte golf course together had it not been for William "Skipper" Beck. Leading up to the 2007 tournament, the Mercedes Benz dealership owner and fellow investor in the Bobcats asked Jordan if he would partner with him at the Pro-Am. Jordan said he would need to check his schedule but would get back to him. Days later, at a Bobcats home game, Jordan told Beck he was in. And that Woods was going to play with them.

While Beck was a well-known businessman throughout Charlotte, the day he spent walking the course with Jordan and Woods led to him being included in photos and news stories in publications and on TV broadcasts and Web sites around the country. Many of them proclaimed he was the luckiest man alive.

But things would get extremely unlucky for Beck over the next couple of years.

In May 2007, the same month that this golf tournament was being played, unbeknownst to the public, the FBI was contacted by a call girl who wanted to share information about a prostitution ring that was operating in Charlotte. The confidential source told investigators about Sallie Saxon (who would later be dubbed the "SouthPark Madam"), and how she had worked for Saxon and her Hush Hush escort service for a year and a half. The hooker-turned-informant had given investigators the smoking gun they'd needed since they had actually been slowly building a case since 2000.

In November 2007, the FBI arrested Saxon, her husband, and a third accomplice for operating the prostitution ring. Court documents revealed that for months, investigators had been going through the Saxons' trash. At one point, they uncovered a piece of paper that had "Britt 430" and "Skipper 300" written on it, which they believed to be the names of two clients and their appointment times. When this information was published in local media reports, speculation ran rampant about Charlotte's only well-known Skipper.

More than a year later, on Dec. 29, 2008, while most of us were enjoying the holidays and preparing for the new year, an affidavit for a warrant against Beck was being issued, charging him with a misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution. According to the affidavit, Beck paid a prostitute $400 for sex on Oct. 19, 2007.

When Beck attended a hearing in February 2009, he admitted that he had paid for the prostitute as charged. Because he was a first-time offender, he was recommended for the Johns School program, a collaboration between the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the District Attorney's Office. At this "school" held at the McLeod Center, a local substance abuse treatment facility, upon the district attorney's approval, a person charged with a first-time offense of solicitation can attend the five-session program and have his charges dropped.

"It's an educational program, so it's not sex therapy or treatment of any sort," said Shelley Alicea, criminal justice case manager for the McLeod Center. "It's based on cognitive behavioral therapy where the facilitator will help individuals think through consequences and risks before making decisions."

Alicea said that police officers come and speak during one of the sessions, as do representatives from the health department. After the health officials' lecture, they draw blood from each of the johns as part of the required HIV and syphilis testing. Alicea says that the range of attendees at the program is "extremely diverse."

After Beck completed the Johns School, prosecutors dismissed his charge in August and he released a written statement that read in part: "I take full responsibility for my actions, and am grateful for the support of my family. I have addressed the issue in a forthright manner with those that I love, and we look forward to moving on with our lives together."

Tragically, Beck wouldn't have long to try to put his life back together.

On the morning of Sept. 11, Beck was piloting his Cirrus SR-22 small-engine plane alone as he departed Rock Hill Airport. Less than two minutes after takeoff, in what appeared to be an attempt to return to the airport, Beck's plane crashed off the side of one of the runways, killing him instantly. A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board showed no signs of engine failure, though a final report has not yet been released.

It's unfortunate that a man known for years for his business acumen and philanthropy is now most remembered for being part of a prostitution scandal and dying in a plane crash. That said, while we're happy that Tiger Woods is playing more golf -- and ecstatic that he'll be in Charlotte -- lessons can undoubtedly be learned from Beck's life and tragic end.

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