The man who defeated Hogan in a playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club died today at age 92. Maybe he's finally in a place where people will accept the fact that he beat the Wee Ice Mon fair and square that day and deserved to win.
I did a phone interview with Fleck in 1998, when I was still in the newspaper business and working in Yuba City/Marysville, Calif. The Open was coming to Olympic that year (Marysville is just a couple hours from SF), but the biggest tie-in was that Fleck had spent a year in the mid-1960s as the head pro at Plumas Lake Golf & Country Club. A guy I knew who worked at the local driving range had been a kid back then, the son of a Plumas Lake member. Somehow, he knew the name of the 9-hole course in Arkansas that Fleck owned for many years (it was called something like Heavenly Acres or a Slice of Heaven or something like that). I simply looked up the phone number of the place and called and asked for Jack, and moments later he was on the other end of the line.
I really enjoyed speaking with him, although he didn't recall a whole lot about his year at Plumas Lake. What he did remember well were all the nasty things Dan Jenkins had written about him, and they still pained him to that day.
I was no Jenkins fan in the first place – I've always read an underlying tone in his stuff that's both arrogant and condescending. Since that conversation with Fleck, if I've read a single word Jenkins has written, it was by accident. If all of the things Fleck related were true, and he seemed extremely sincere to me, then Jenkins was nothing more than a Hogan brown-noser and a real horse's patoot.
That's neither here nor there on this day, though. A champion has passed, and may he rest in peace.