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Jack Fleck and Billy Casper, two great icons of golf

Posted by: John K. Abendroth, PGA

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Jack Fleck and Billy Casper are true icons of golf and in November of 2011 they celebrated their great U.S. Open victories with the members of the Olympic Club in a historic night of memories and storytelling.

At 90 years old, Jack Fleck has a wonderful spirit for life and golf and he can recall much about his great victory at The Olympic Club over Ben Hogan in 1955. The two were friends and in-fact, Fleck used clubs from the new Ben Hogan Golf Company the only other player in the field besides Ben Hogan to use those clubs.

As history would steer the course, Fleck would become the first of several champions at Olympic who was not the favorite entering the championship. Hogan was not only a favorite in golf, but from his recovery just a few years earlier in the horrible car accident, Hogan was an American Hero and for Fleck to become the victor likely did not sit with many after that. Fleck would win 7 professional events and has gone on to write several books about his life and golf instruction. The win in the playoff over Hogan in 1955 lives on today as one of the most compelling U.S. Open Championships in history.

Billy Casper may be the more underrated champion golfer in history, with 68 professional wins and 3 major championships two of those being U.S. Open Championships and The Masters. Being released this year is a book about Casper, “The Big Three and Me.”

For Casper’s part of history at The Olympic Club, he would win the 1966 U. S. Open with an amazing comeback, down by 7 strokes with 9 holes to play to Arnold Palmer then go on to win in the 18 hole playoff the following day.

Much like Fleck defeating Hogan, Arnold Palmer was an American hero, most loved as a PGA Tour player and the crowd favorite. Casper was the staunch family man with a deft putting stroke and nothing flashy about his golf game, he was a plodder which as it turns out is just right for the fairways of the Lake Course at The Olympic Club.

I was fortunate to be asked to be the moderator for the evening with Fleck and Casper at Olympic in November for a fireside chat. The crowd was engaged and they showed awe and respect for these great champions. They entered the room to a standing ovation and at the end they hugged each other, they were among their fans on the property where they etched their spot in history, both of their wins at The Olympic Club in San Francisco will go down as a couple of the most compelling and amazing U. S. Open wins ever. I’m glad I got the chance to pass their way.

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