PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Steve Flesch's passion for Cincinnati Reds started at early age
August 11, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- August 11, 2021
- Steve Flesch at the 2021 U.S. Senior Open Championship. (Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Steve Flesch was born in Cincinnati in 1967.
Which has little to do with the fact he’s a member of PGA TOUR Champions. Or a lefthander. Or a University of Kentucky graduate and huge Wildcats fan.
But it has everything to do with one of the biggest pastimes in his life. One for which he gladly would have chucked his golf career. And it explains why last week he was tuning up for the Champions Tour’s Shaw Charity Classic that begins on Friday by playing a round with two current Cincinnati Reds pitchers.
Think about it. Cincy in the 1970s. For a sports fan it meant one thing and one thing only: The Big Red Machine.
When Flesch was a boy, his head was filled with dreams of playing with a ball with seams, not Surlyn. He grew up on the Reds teams that had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Davey Concepcion, Tony Perez and George Foster. Cincinnati was tearing up the major leagues, winning six National League West titles, four NL pennants and two World Series during the decade of the ’70s.
“Growing up I was all about the Big Red Machine,” Flesch said from Calgary on Tuesday. “I wanted to play baseball for a living way more than I ever wanted to play golf. I was a pitcher/center fielder/first baseman. I was really fast. Not big but really fast. I played baseball, and I loved it. I loved team sports.”
Flesch lived a charm life as a youth in Cincinnati. Turns out his grandfather was a rep for MacGregor Sporting Goods, which was the chief manufacturer of baseball gloves in the 1970s and ’80s. And yes, he serviced the Reds.
“He would take me over to Riverfront Stadium a couple of times a year,” Flesch said. “Ernie Stowe was the locker room manager for the Reds, and my grandfather would make sure they had what they needed.
“So here I am, roaming freely in the locker room of the Big Red Machine. I’m looking at the bats and the gloves of Rose, Bench, Foster. This is a young kid’s dream. I’m 8, 9, 10, 11 years old strolling this locker room. I’ve always been a passionate Reds fan.”
How passionate? “My son and I watch the games every night. I literally plan my nights around being home at 7:10 p.m. for the first pitch.”
Flesch went on to become a four-time winner on the PGA TOUR, and at some point he became friendly with former major-league pitcher Chris Welsh, who subsequent to his professional career became a TV and radio analyst for the Reds.
Welsh is a fellow lefthander and a decent golfer, according to Flesch. Flesch often gave him clubs to try, and Welsh often invited Flesch to play with former Reds who still lived in the Cincinnati area such as Paul O’Neill and Bronson Arroyo.
Last week, Flesch got a call from Welsh asking if he’d like to play golf with current Reds pitchers Wade Miley and Sonny Gray. Naturally he jumped on it.
“Wade and Sonny are just fantastic to be around, very humble, down-to-earth guys,” Flesch said. “Wade is from Louisiana. He said he’s Cajun country. Sonny is from Nashville, and Wade said he’s ‘pretty-boy country.’ They’re funny.
“It’s amazing how many major-leaguers, especially pitchers, play golf. True to form we had a great day. Wade had pitched the night before, and Sonny had pitched the previous night. So they had plenty of time before they had to go again. … One nice thing is they were picking my brain about golf and the swing and whatnot. They’re both great athletes and pretty good players, competitors. They were both fun to hang out with.”
Flesch, 32nd in the Schwab Cup standings, heads into the Shaw feeling good about his game and even better about the venue. After taking a month off which he called rejuvenating, he can draw on a third-place finish at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club the last time the Champions Tour made it to Calgary, in 2019.
“I like the golf course,” said Flesch, who posted a T12 at the Shaw in 2017. “I was really bummed we didn’t play last year. I wasn’t sure this year was gonna happen, either, so I’m glad it is.”