Fleckman gets spread in Golfweek magazine
By Bob West
News Golf Columnist
Before Bruce Lietzke gave Southeast Texas some serious PGA Tour credibility with 13 wins on the regular tour and seven more on the Champions Tour, and well before Chris Stroud came along to make his own mark at the top level of the game, there was Marty Fleckman.
The son of a Port Arthur lumberyard owner, Marty emerged from the University of Houston in the mid 1960s looking like he might be a challenger to the Goliaths of that era — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Sadly, the rising star plunged quickly to earth, destined to become golf’s poster boy for the pitfalls of swing tinkering.
So why bring up Fleckman several decades after he flamed out? Because this is the 50th anniversary of him winning the 1965 NCAA individual championship and there’s a terrific piece on him in the latest issue of Golfweek. If you don’t get the magazine find somebody who subscribes, borrow it and read the story titled, “Lifelong Lesson.”
It will be worth the time and effort.
Fleckman, for those who don’t know, helped UH win capture three consecutive NCAA team titles from 1964-66, then created shock throughout the golf world by holding the lead as an amateur in the 1967 U.S. Open after 54 holes. Nerves got him in the final round, but notice had been served.
A few weeks later at the Cajun Classic in Lafayette, La., Fleckman became the first player to win his first PGA Tour event. In the 48 years since, only six others, including Ben Crenshaw, have been able to match the feat. The last to do it was Russell Henley in the 2013 Sony Open.
Fleckman next created a major stir by threatening to win the 1968 PGA Championship at Pecan Valley in San Antonio. Dueling with the likes of Palmer and Julius Boros, his name was atop the leaderboard with five holes to play. But three bogeys down the stretch opened the door for Boros to win with a 281. Fleckman’s final round 73 left him T4 at 283.
That would be the apex of his career. The Port Arthuran, who had become a protégé of legendary Byron Nelson, saw his game began to unravel as he tried in vain to mimic his mentor. Many of those close to him faulted Nelson for what became of fatal flow of wildness off the tee.
Fleckman, however, never blamed Lord Byron. Here’s what he told Golfweek.
“I always figured if I did everything like Byron Nelson, I’d be as good as Byron Nelson. I didn’t take the information that Byron gave me and apply it to myself. I was imitating him. That wasn’t me. I learned a lesson. I really emphasize that to my students. You’ve got to be you.”
The students Fleckman refers to are those who come to him in his role as Director of Instruction at Black Horse Golf Club in Cypress. He’s taught there for the past 15 years. As one who has sought his help a couple of times, I can testify to what an excellent teacher Marty is. That was further underscored in 2007 when he was named the Teacher of the Year for the PGA’s Southern Texas Section.
At 71, the guy blessed with movie-star good looks still enjoys playing the game and competing in Senior events. He’s found happiness in a second marriage to a woman he met in church, lives in his dream home near the second hole on the North Course at Black Horse and, from what I’ve seen, loves the live he’s living.
What could have been on the PGA Tour is mostly a faded memory but it remains a compelling teaching point. His last hurrah at the top level of golf, after a mostly tortuous decade of the 1970s, came with a T-5 in the 1979 Tucson Open.
Ironically, the winner that year in Tucson was a guy who also played at the University of Houston named Bruce Lietzke. Lietzke, as those who watched him will recall, different type swing that produced a power fade. It was a swing pretty much unique to him and “Leaky” never strayed from who he was.
CHIP SHOTS: After getting off to a sizzling start his first season on the Web.com Tour, PN-G ex Andrew Landry has missed three consecutive cuts. His latest miss came last week in the Rex Hospital Open in North Carolina where an even par 142 (70-72) did not make it to the weekend. Landry is still No. 8 on the money list and is almost certain to earn a PGA Tour card for next season. He’ll be playing this week in a new event — the Greater Dallas Open — in Lewisville . . . Chris Stroud returns to the PGA Tour this week for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Championship in Dublin, Ohio. Stroud spent last week working on his game in Sea Island, Ga., and texted his dad that he thinks he found something. Chris has dropped to No. 127 on the Fed Ex Cup points list, which means he’d be on the outside looking in if the PGA Tour season ended Sunday. His June schedule includes the Memorial, The Fed Ex Classic in Memphis and the Travelers Championship in Hartford. Conn. It was in the Travelers two years ago when he tied for first with Ken Duke, then lost in a playoff . . . The Southern Texas PGA Junior Tour launches its 2015 Golden Triangle schedule next Monday at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange and from what I hear Sunset Grove is in terrific shape. All the necessary information on the junior tour can be found at www.STPGA.com or by calling Jerry Honza at 543-6364 or Ed Campbell at 722-8286. Deadline for Sunset Grove entries is today, but late registration will be accepted through Thursday. The early part of the junior tour looks really strong with the Bruce Lietzke Classic set for June 15-16 at Idylwild Golf Club and the next stop at Beaumont Country Club on June 22 . . . The Super Saturday Game at The Babe was played in a best 2-ball format. On the front nine, the team of Ed Holley, Gerald Huebel, Jerry May and Paul Brown won with minus six. On the back, it was the threesome of Larry Thompson, Rick Pritchett and Thad Borne winning with minus 2 . . . The Senior Game at The Babe was played in a 4-man team points format. The team of Earl Richard, Paul Duplantis, Tom Duhon and Pete Reobroi won with plus six. Second at even was the foursome of Harrell Guidry, Larry Stansbury, Dillard Darbonne and Stedman Tahaney. Closest to the pin winners were Bob Moore (No. 2), Gerald Huebel (No. 7), Raymond Darbonne (No. 2) and Robert Byerly (No. 15) . . . The Senior 50 Plus Game at The Babe was played in a best 2-ball format. On the front there was a two-way tie at minus two between the team of Larry Stansbury, Gary Fontenot, Tommy Lemire and Guidry and the team of Mike Lansford, Larry Foster, Mark Petry and Ralph Childress. The back ended in a tie at minus four between the foursome of Tony Trevino, Raymond Darbonne, Bob Byerly and Pat Perez and the team of Larry Thompson, Butch Cross, Jim Mercer and Paul Brown.
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