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Jack Fleck Dies
Jack Fleck, who shocked the golf world when be beat Ben Hogan in an 18-hole Monday playoff in the 1955 U.S. Open, died last Friday in Fort Smith, Ark. He was 82.
Fleck came out of nowhere from his native Iowa when he ventured to the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the Open. The longtime club pro was in the midst of a two-year stretch when he was simply trying to make it on the PGA Tour.
His remarkable victory over Hogan was chronicled in Al Barkow's wonderful book, "The Upset."
Fleck's victory was very similar to that of Francis Ouimet's out-of-nowhere win in the 1913 U.S. Open, when the 20-year-old American amateur defeated the British stars Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in a playoff.
The pinnacle of Fleck's career came in the 1955 Open, as from that point forward he logged only two more PGA Tour titles (the 1960 Phoenix Open Invitational and 1961 Bakersfield Open) and a win on the Champions Tour (the 1979 PGA Seniors' Championship).
Prior to his death he was the oldest living U.S. Open champion.
Fleck returned to Olympic Club 57 years after his victory and was on the 18th green to present the trophy to 2012 champion Webb Simpson.
In Barkow's book Fleck credited his yoga practice for helping allay his previous fidgety mental demeanor. "There was something about my nervous system that whole week. I was so calm," he said later.
Though many observers claimed Fleck's victory was a fluke, the great Hogan said otherwise. "I don't care who he was or if anybody heard of him or what," Hogan once told the sportswriter Dan Jenkins. "He played better than I did that day."
"I became the man who beat Hogan," Fleck told Golf magazine. "I became a villain. Because of that, people rooted against me. But I'm glad I did it. It's better to be somebody, even if it's only once in your life."
Fleck, who lived in Fort Smith, is survived by his third wife, Carmen, who confirmed his death; a son, Craig, named for U.S. Open winner Craig Wood, from his marriage to Lynn Fleck; a sister, Shirley Schwerdifeger; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.