BOB WEST ON GOLF — Southeast Texans have made mark in PGA Championship.  

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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With the year’s first major — the PGA Championship — being played this week at Harding Park in San Francisco, it’s time for a little history review on how that event is the closest a player with Southeast Texas ties has come to winning one of the game’s big four tournaments.

Not one, not two, but three of our guys were in position to win a PGA Championship going to the final round.

Marty Fleckman was the first, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, he was the brightest of stars coming out of college. The Port Arthuran won an NCAA individual championship at the University of Houston, led the U.S. Open as an amateur after the first and third rounds in 1967 and won the first time he teed it up on the PGA Tour.

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In 1968 at Pecan Valley in San Antonio, Fleckman was poised for his major breakthrough. He either led or was tied for the lead after each of the first three rounds and was one shot clear of the field with five holes to play.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t get to the finish line and settled for a T4, two shots back of Julius Boros. A player of some note, Arnold Palmer, finished a shot ahead of him in second.

The next time a Southeast Texas talent made noise at the PGA was at at Crooked Stick in Indiana in 1981. Beaumonter Bruce Lietzke, also a University of Houston product, was third after day one, a stroke back in second at the 36-hole cut and three behind in fourth going to the final round.

Lietzke birdied the first hole to get within two on Sunday but there would be no catching a force of nature named John Daly whose booming drives left Lietzke and everybody else in awe. Daly, who got into the tournament as a ninth alternate, wound up winning by three, with Lietzke placing second. It would be his highest finish in a major.

Fast forward to 2017. PNG ex Chris Stroud, buoyed by his first win on tour a week earlier, came out smoking at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Stroud was T3 after the first two days, T2 and in the final group on Sunday and was atop the scoreboard heading to the final nine holes.

A back nine surge by Justin Thomas, and woes late in the round, finally burst the Stroud bubble. The two-time Lamar All-America wound up tied for ninth to give Southeast Texas its third top 10 at the PGA Championship.

Andrew Landry will be carrying the area torch at Harding Park and there were encouraging signs for Landry at last week’s WGC Fed Ex Championship in Memphis. The PNG ex, coming off back-to-back missed cuts, shot rounds of 72-70-66-68.

It earned him a tie for 30th, a $72,000 check and, most importantly, some momentum going into San Francisco. Wouldn’t it be cool if Andrew could give Southeast Texas a PGA Championship top ten grand slam?

Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West’s column is sponsored by 5 Under Golf Center.