Jack Fleck

Jack Fleck (1 US Open )

1921 - 2014

Jackson Donald "Jack" Fleck (November 7, 1921 – March 21, 2014) was an American professional golfer, best known for winning the U.S. Open in 1955 in a playoff over Ben Hogan

Born in 1921 and raised in Bettendorf, Iowa,[4][5] Fleck's parents were poor farmers who had lost their land in the 1920s. He attended Davenport High School and played on its golf team. Fleck started as a caddy for a local dentist in the mid-1930s, turned professional in 1939,[6] and worked as an assistant golf pro at the Des Moines Country Club for five dollars a week prior to World War II. He joined the military in 1942 and served in the U.S. Navy as a quartermaster;[7] he participated in the D-Day invasion from a British rocket-firing ship off Normandy's Utah Beach.[8] Within two weeks after his discharge from the service, Fleck was on the PGA's winter golf tour with pro friends trying to qualify for PGA Tour events.

After a few years of competing in local and PGA Tour events, Fleck decided to play full-time on the Tour for two years. Within six months, Fleck had his first win — on the biggest stage in men's professional golf — at the 1955 U.S. Open. Fleck won an 18-hole Sunday playoff by three strokes over his idol, Ben Hogan, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.[1][2][9] His first round deficit of nine strokes (behind Tommy Bolt), was the greatest number overcome by a U.S. Open winner.[10] The following year he resigned his job as a municipal club pro in Davenport and moved to the Detroit area in October 1956.[11]

Fleck made three playoffs on tour in 1960, winning at the Phoenix Open in February.[12][13] He tied for third at the U.S. Open in 1960, and won his third and last tour event in October 1961, The Bakersfield Open, also in a playoff.[14] Fleck finished in the top ten at the PGA Championship in 1962 at Aronimink near Philadelphia, a tie for seventh, then left the tour in 1963. He was a club pro in Wisconsin, Illinois, and California (Plumas Lake CC), and attempted a comeback on tour in 1970.[15] Following the death of his wife Lynn in 1975, he qualified for the U.S. Open in 1977 at age 55, but missed the cut.[16]

Less than two years later, Fleck won the PGA Seniors' Championship in February 1979,[17] also won in a playoff,[18] a year prior to the formation of the Senior PGA Tour.[19] He was inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.[20]

In 1993, needing money to salvage a little golf course he owned in rural Arkansas that had been damaged by flooding, a place he called Li'l Bit of Heaven, he sold his 1955 U.S. Open gold medal.[19] He lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas with his wife Carmen Fleck.[21]

Fleck met his first wife, Lynn Burnsdale of Chicago, when she stopped in the municipal course's pro shop in Davenport in 1949 with a club that needed repair. They were married six weeks later and late the next year added their only child, a son. Fleck wanted to name him Snead Hogan Fleck, but they settled on Craig, after Craig Wood, the winner of the Masters and U.S. Open in 1941.[7] Lynn is credited with encouraging him to play on tour in the early 1950s and again in the early 1970s.[7][15] She died in 1975 and Fleck remarried in 1980.[3][16] He married his wife Carmen in 2001.[4] He died on March 21, 2014, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the age of 92.[22][23] He was the oldest living U.S. Open champion at the time of his death.[24]