The way my win over Ben Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open has gone
down in history, you'd think I had no chance. How could an
unknown like me beat the great Hogan in an 18-hole playoff at
the Olympic Club? I was so overmatched, according to what I've
read in golf magazines and newspapers, that when I hit a bad
shot in the playoff and Hogan had to wait, I said, "Mr. Hogan,
I'm sorry, I'll try and improve my golf and speed up play."
It's a lie. Never happened.
Now, I understand that people like legends. Writers in barrooms
especially like legends! But isn't the truth interesting, too? I
was an excellent driver of the ball and a good irons
player--good enough that Hogan made a set of clubs for me. He
thought Jack Fleck could help bring credibility to his
club-design business. In fact he and I were the only ones
playing Hogan clubs during the '55 Open. (Years later he joked
that giving me those clubs "might have been a mistake.")
I was accurate enough to keep the ball in the fairway, and I
putted great that week, at least by my standards. Straight
drives and good putts--isn't that how you win the Open? I also
kept my concentration all week. I felt a calm that was like
self-hypnosis. I slept 9 1/2 hours the night before the playoff,
then went out and denied Hogan his fifth U.S. Open title.
Still, people believe a lie that is unfair to both of us. After
all, Hogan was a great competitor. He wouldn't want it said that
he lost to a guy who couldn't play, and I can tell you that he
didn't feel that way. He hated losing, but he knew I had beaten
him fair and square. At the end of our playoff he shook my hand,
looked me in the eye and said, simply, "Congratulations."
June 28, 1998
I had no reason to apologize.
Jack Fleck runs Lil' Bit A Heaven Golf Club in Magazine, Ark.