Reliving Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and the 1955 U.S. Open

Neil Sagebiel and 1955 U.S. Open champion Jack Fleck.

Last Tuesday the United States Golf Association (USGA) published a story at its website about that amazing first U.S. Open played at San Francisco’s Olympic Club in 1955. (As you may know, the U.S. Open returns to the Olympic Club this June for the fifth time.) The USGA article made me realize that it’s time to tell you more about my somewhat accidental project. More on that in a moment, but first a quick review of one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

Jack Fleck, an unheralded club pro from Davenport, Iowa, beat Ben Hogan, a four-time U.S. Open champion and nine-time major winner, in a dramatic 18-hole playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open. It was a stunning result, the greatest upset since amateur Francis Ouimet defeated British greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1913 U.S. Open. At the end of regulation play, Hogan was sitting in the players’ locker room—his record fifth Open all but assured—when the Iowan rallied with two birdies on the final four holes. Fleck sank a clutch birdie putt on the 18th green to tie Hogan and force a playoff the following day. The near-unanimous view was that Fleck had no chance in a head-to-head duel against the great Ben Hogan.

Jack Fleck is still around, still playing golf, and still talking about 1955. Now 90, Jack is the oldest living major champion. But I’ve known him since he was a younger man of 85.

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