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Fred Couples' fill-in caddie had front-row seat to remarkable win

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Fred Couples' fill-in caddie had front-row seat to remarkable win

Griffin Flesch, son of PGA TOUR Champions player Steve Flesch, was Couples' caddie at the SAS Championship

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Fred Couples sinks birdie to win SAS Championship

    Griffin Flesch had no idea he was receiving an invitation to golf history.

    He was just excited to caddie for a friend of his dad, never mind a Hall of Famer.

    Flesch, who recently turned 24, is the son of longtime PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions player Steve Flesch. He estimates he has caddied for his dad 15 times since he joined the Champs circuit, so he certainly was qualified to handle Fred Couples’ bag at the SAS Championship in Cary, North Carolina, last week.

    Couples was without his regular caddie, Mark Chaney, who was home in England with his mother. Couples, who has been in a text chain with the Flesches for about three years in which the three talk mostly MLB, NFL and NBA, slipped in a question for Griffin: Would he like to caddie for him at the SAS?

    “Of course I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Right away,” Flesch said. “But then I had to make sure he wasn’t joking. He likes to joke, but I didn’t think he would about something like that. And he said, ‘Come on. Let’s have some fun.’ So I booked a flight for Raleigh.”

    Couples took it from there, providing more fun than anyone could have imagined. Three days, 22 birdies and an eagle later, including a stunning final round, and Griffin Flesch had his first 18th hole flag, a traditional keepsake for winning caddies. Yes, Couples signed it, too.

    “It was amazing. He was so good all day (on Sunday),” Flesch said. “He birdied 12 of the last 14 holes. The guy’s just a freak.”

    No doubt Couples’ legions of fans already have seen the numbers from Sunday. It was his first victory since 2017. He bested his age by three shots. He bested his lowest round as a professional by a shot. It was the lowest final round in PGA TOUR Champions history and the lowest round in SAS history.

    Playing in the final group with Jerry Kelly and rookie Y.E. Yang, it was Kelly who broke from the gates first. He birdied four of the first five holes, and when he rolled in his putt on No. 5 he temporarily led Couples by three shots.

    “That’s when Fred made a 6- or 7-footer to stay two back,” Flesch said. “If he goes three down with 13 to play, maybe the whole narrative would have changed. But he rolled that it in to kind of stay within shouting distance and then got it going after that.”

    It was the first of five birdies in a row to close out the front nine. Then came the improbable par at 10, where after hitting a 3-wood off the tee into the water and leaving his approach shot short of the green, Couples rolled in a 30-footer to keep momentum firmly in his grasp.

    Flesch was dead on. Couples has never looked more in control. He made it easy on his caddie, too. All he required of Flesch was to give him a yardage to the hole. No yardages to the front of the green or the back, to this marker or that sprinkler. Just tell him how far to the hole then pull the club he asked for.

    Kelly, who had led by three earlier in the round, who shot a 5-under 67 over that final 18 … lost by eight.

    “On 10 I felt like it was his day, but I could still take it from him,” Kelly said. “I closed it to one on 11. He knocked it in the water on 12 but still made par. At that point I knew there were a few tough holes in front of him and I was only two down. It was after the bounces on 14 and 15 that cemented the day for him.

    “It’s kinda tough to make up shots coming down the stretch when he birdies the last seven.”

    Kelly gave some credit to Couples’ young caddie, too.

    “I think Griffin Flesch helped him stay in his zone,” Kelly said. “They had some good conversation going, and not about golf. It was pretty classic, smooth Boom Boom.”

    Couples had started the tournament on Friday with a double bogey on his first hole. He joked that Flesch told him to stay calm, everything will be all right. Couples was still 2 over through five holes when things began to turn around.

    But Flesch could tell Couples was on the verge. He said he told his dad on Friday night that Couples was hitting it so well that if he “makes even a few putts he’s going to win. By a lot.”

    Steve Flesch was waiting behind the 18th green on Sunday. A winner twice this season, he was ready to welcome his friend back to the winner’s circle and his son into the winner’s circle.

    “Griffin has always had this insane passion for all aspects of golf,” Steve Flesch said. “He played in college at Xavier in Cincinnati, then just lost it, and transferred to Kentucky. He has now found his game again and is better than ever. He went through a mental meat-grinder of emotions and has found loving the game, again.

    “I believe Fred’s texts and friendly banter with Griff about the Dodgers and Reds, and golf, played a huge part in getting that passion back. Griffin looks up to him so much for his legacy in the game. I can’t think of anyone else he would drop everything for, to have this week. Well, hopefully me, maybe. Haha. Anyway, this was a bucket-list item in life, for Griffin. I couldn’t be happier for or prouder of my son.”

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