Jack Fleck 1955 U.S. Open Champ

  Jack Fleck at the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club

   Notice of Jack Fleck’s passing on March 21 at 92 was sent to me by Breck Speed who included a note from Jeremy Moe, the professional at the Hardscrabble Country Club in Little Rock, Ark. where Mr. Fleck was a long-time member. Moe is our reigning U.S. Hickory Open champion. He and Mr. Fleck shared many good times together. I must apologize to Breck and Jeremy as the note languished in my in-box, overlooked as I tried to keep up with the incoming mail. However, it is never too late to celebrate the life of a good man.

   Fleck was the 1955 U.S. Open champion, a victory that is often remembered for who did not win. Ben Hogan was attempting to win his fifth (some would say sixth, but that is another story) U.S. Open. He finished well ahead of Fleck and the tournament was all but given to Hogan who was congratulated in the clubhouse while Fleck was still out on the course. Gene Sarazen, who was hired to anchor a first-ever televised broadcast of the Open, which lasted about 30 minutes or so, wound up the telecast by awarding Hogan the victory. Fleck wasn’t watching TV. He was playing outstanding golf, destroying a 3-shot deficit in the last round to tie Hogan and force an 18-hole playoff that he won by three strokes. He was also playing Ben Hogan-designed golf clubs. Hogan himself sent the final components of his set, wedges, to Fleck before the tournament began. He and Hogan were the only two playing Ben’s clubs.

   Fleck had two other victories on the PGA Tour, the Phoenix Open in 1960 and the Bakersfield Open in 1961, both in playoffs. Apparently, you could not beat the man in a playoff. On the Senior Tour, he won the 1979 Seniors Championship and, with Tommy Bolt, won the Demaret Division of the 1995 Liberty Mutual Legends tournament. He tied for 11th in the 1962 Masters, his best finish at Augusta National.

   Fleck settled in the Fort Smith, Ark. area to build and operate the Lil’ Bit of Heaven course near Magazine. And, as noted, he was a cherished member of the Hardscrabble Country Club, where our reigning U.S. Hickory champ Jeremy Moe is head pro.

   Here is Jeremy’s account of his friend, Jack Fleck.

   1955 U.S. Open Champion, long time Fort Smith resident and Hardscrabble member, Jack Fleck, has passed away at the age of 92. Jack will be missed and we will always cherish the time we had with the legendary golfer.
   Recently, in the summer of 2012, Jack was invited to attend the U.S. Open and celebrate the anniversary of his win at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Jack made us proud as he handled the interviews with his usual grace and class, despite his declining health.
   Less than a year ago, Jack made Sport Center’s Top 10 when he hit a 9 iron to a gimmie birdie during the Par 3 Tournament at the Masters. That shot was replayed over and over at the club as all of us at Hardscrabble were so proud of our champion.  
   Augusta contacted Jack a few months ago to invite him to hit the opening shot at this year’s Masters. Jack was making plans to go, but his health just didn’t allow.
   Jack often shared his story surrounding the 1955 U.S. Open and would describe a visit he experienced from The Lord.  He was in his hotel bathroom, looking in the mirror, when clear as day, he heard The Lord say, “Jack, today you are going to win the US Open.” Jack described that, on that day, he hit the ball unbelievable distances and when the birdie putt on 18 dropped, Jack had tied Ben Hogan. He would go on to beat Hogan the next day in a playoff. Jack gave The Lord the credit for his win, and we know now he joins him in Heaven.
   Farewell to our friend, Jack Fleck, and thank you for all the memories and special moments you helped create.

Fleck and Hogan at the championship ceremony in 1955.