Monday, January 6

PHOTO: Jack Fleck Warming Up Before 18-Hole Playoff With Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open

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HERE'S A FAVORITE PICTURE of Jack Fleck (1921-2014), who I wrote about in my 2012 book THE LONGEST SHOT.

This is moments before the start of an 18-hole playoff with four-time U.S. Open champion Ben Hogan to decide the 1955 U.S. Open. During warm-up, Jack liked to hit a few shots with the short and long clubs, focusing on tempo.

One of the most remarkable things Jack told me in our seven-year relationship (that became a friendship) was that he wasn't afraid of playing Ben Hogan, head to head. I asked him about this on numerous occasions. If anything, it was an honor for Jack to face Hogan, because Hogan was his idol.

But, no, Jack wasn't nervous or afraid. He was a confident ball-striker and tended to play his best on tough golf courses.

For one week in June 1955, Fleck played sublime golf on a brutal, rough-infested layout, the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He even putted well (his persistent weakness).

The virtually unknown Fleck stunned the great Hogan (and the wider world) with a three-shot victory in that playoff, still one of the greatest upsets in golf and sports.

It changed Jack's life, a lot of it good and some bad. I had the privilege to learn all about it during multiple conversations over several years. Now, as the years fly by, it's sometimes hard to believe I had that incredible opportunity.

1 comment:

Ed Tallach said...

I also had the distinct privileged of first serving as a caddie for Jack Fleck in the twilight of his career and then as a companion and adviser thru the end of Jack's life. He shared with me in detail all the highs and lows of his career and life in long conversations during our travels and stays at the USGA, R&A, Senior PGA Tour and Grand Champion events. Neil came into his life at an opportune time for Jack and rekindled a new interest in this much misunderstood and very kind and compassionate champion. He afforded me the opportunity to meet and socialize with the heroes of my youth as if a dream come true. Rest in peace dear Jack and share with those above of your great 1955 U.S. Open win and how the Lord himself spoke to you in that modest motel room in San Francisco. ED TALLACH HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS