Jack Fleck, 1955 U.S. Open champ, passes away
March 21, 2014
- Jack Fleck won three times on the PGA TOUR. (PGA TOUR Archive)
Jack Fleck, best known for winning the 1955 U.S. Open in a playoff over Ben Hogan, died March 21 of natural causes. He was 92.
Born November 7, 1921, Fleck grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, and graduated from Davenport High School in Iowa, where he played on the golf team and caddied.
A little-known pro who qualified for the 1955 U.S. Open—only his second Open and third major championship overall—Fleck opened the tournament at San Francisco’s Olympic Club with a 6-over 76 and was still three strokes behind leader Ben Hogan when the final round began. But his 3-under 67 in that final round got him into a playoff with Hogan, and his 69 the following day in the 18-hole playoff gave Fleck his only major championship title.
“Jack was a great player who will always be remembered for winning in legendary fashion, capturing one of the most memorable tournaments in history of our game. He embodied the ideals of a U.S. Open Champion for the remainder of his career. He also played a major role in the early years of the Champions Tour for which we are all indebted,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.
After his U.S. Open victory, Fleck continued playing on the PGA TOUR, where he added two more victories—the 1960 Phoenix Open and the 1961 Bakersfield Open. All three of his TOUR titles came in playoffs. He was also runner-up five times during his TOUR career, and added an additional six third-place performances.
In 1979, prior to the formation of the Champions Tour, Fleck won the PGA Seniors’ Championship, again in a playoff over Bob Erickson and Bill Johnston. In 1995, with Tommy Bolt as his partner, he won the Demaret Division at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.
“Jack started about the same time I started on the TOUR. He was a good player, kind of a quiet, easy-going guy who played his own game and never talked too much about it. He was a nice man to have on the TOUR. I was sorry to learn of his passing," said Arnold Palmer.
Fleck joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and saw action in the D-Day invasion at Normandy on a British rocket-firing ship off Utah Beach. Two weeks after leaving active duty, Fleck joined the PGA TOUR’s winter golf tour in 1949.
He played the Champions Tour full-time from 1980 to 1991 and then devoted himself primarily to teaching and designing golf courses, running a Li’l Bit of Heaven, a golf course he designed in Arkansas.
Fleck is survived by his wife Carmen, his son Craig, his granddaughter Jennifer, and his great granddaughter Lexi.
Funeral services will be Tuesday, March 25 at the First United Methodist Church in Ft. Smith, AK at 2 p.m.