Two signed photographs by Jack Fleck after his 1955 US Open victory over Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan, Jack Fleck And The Greatest Upset Of All Time

By  Michael Fitzpatrick

Anyone who is remotely interested in the game of golf has surely

heard of Ben Hogan. However, few have heard the name ‘Jack

Fleck’ or the story behind his improbable playoff win at the 1955 US

Open which is regarded by many as the greatest upset in the history

of the game.

Jack Fleck was an assistant driving range pro from Davenport, Iowa

who served in the Navy and took part in the D-Day invasion from a

ship off Utah Beach.

Immediately following his discharge from the Navy, Fleck began

Trying to qualify for PGA Tour events around the country while also

making some extra money back at his old job on the driving range.

In 1955, Fleck finally qualified for full-time status on the PGA Tour and

began playing in as many events as he could.

Within six months of qualifying for the tour, this assistant driving range

pro from Iowa would pull off the greatest upset in the history of the

game and arguably the greatest upset in the history of sports.

Fleck grew up idolizing Ben Hogan and as a young boy he

relentlessly tried to imitate Hogan’s flawless swing.

When Fleck first joined the PGA Tour, he would follow Hogan during

His practice rounds trying to learn everything and anything he could

about Hogan’s process of developing his renowned plans for

meticulously managing a golf course down to the inch.

Fleck was also an admirer of the golf clubs Hogan created and

decided to approach Hogan a few months prior to the Open and

ask him for a set of clubs, a request many pros believed to be

insane; Hogan had a well-known reputation of being a ruthless

competitor who would be highly unlikely to build a set of clubs for

the an opponent.

Maybe it was Fleck’s innocent farm-boy persona, or maybe Hogan

was just beginning to ease up during the later stages of his career.

Whatever the reason, Hogan enthusiastically greeted Fleck in person

at his golf club manufacturing plant in Texas and agreed to build

him a full set of clubs free of charge.

By 1955, Hogan was five years removed from his near fatal car

accident and was beginning to near the end of his career. However,

heading into the 1955 US Open, Hogan would still have been

considered the clear favourite to win the event.

Both Hogan and Fleck arrived at the Olympic Club in San Francisco

on the Saturday prior to start of the Open.

When Fleck arrived in the city by the bay to play his first practice

Round, he was astonished to see Hogan walking towards him with

two brand new Ben Hogan wedges that he had created personally

for Fleck in addition to the set of clubs Hogan had already given


“It was just unbelievable, the kindness he continued to show me. In a

sense it's a shame that I used those very clubs to defeat him.” Fleck

would later say of this uncharacteristically kind gesture from Hogan.

Back in 1955, the US Open consisted of one round on Thursday, one

round on Friday and a 36-hole finish on Saturday.

Heading into Saturday’s 36-hole finale, Fleck was in contention and,

like everyone else in the field, was chasing down Hogan.

While shaving prior to his Saturday morning tee-time, Fleck

experienced something that to this day he attributes to a miracle

from God.

“On Saturday morning before the final rounds, while I was shaving

and listening to Mario Lanza singing 'I'll Walk With God,' a voice

came out of the mirror and said very audibly, 'Jack, you are going to

win the Open.'"

"I was startled and looked around the room. While I was looking

away, the voice came out of the mirror again: 'Jack, you are going

to win the Open!' I got goose bumps, and it was as if electricity was

going through my body. It was all I could do to calm down and do

my stretching and breathing exercises.”

After a strong front nine in his final round, Fleck approached the 15th

hole needing to birdie two out of his last four holes to tie Hogan and

force an 18-hole playoff on Sunday.

Fleck birdied the 15th, pared the 16th and 17th, and approached

the 18th hole needing a birdie to tie Hogan.

“I hit my Ben Hogan 3-wood off the tee at No. 18. I had only a 7-iron

left from the fringe rough, and after hitting that to six or seven feet I

took very little time over the putt. I had that good feeling in my

hands and put it in the middle of the hole for the tie,” described

Fleck many years later.

Whether you believe Flecks’ description of the events that took

place in his hotel room prior to the 36-hole finale on Saturday or not,

there is one thing cannot be disputed: the miraculous Saturday

afternoon charge this former assistant driving range pro from rural

Iowa made on the great Ben Hogan.

Fleck and Hogan would meet on Sunday afternoon for an 18-hole


After his miraculous finish on Saturday afternoon, Fleck began to

believe the voice he had heard was indeed a greater force guiding

him to victory, which put him eerily at ease prior to the most

Important round of golf he would ever play.

Hogan, on the other hand was still suffering from the affects of his car

accident in the form of sore, fragile legs that he would need to soak

for an hour and then spend another hour wrapping before each

round just to allow him to physically walk 18 holes of golf.

So, needless to say, an additional 18-hole playoff following the 36-

holes he had just played was not at all what Hogan was hoping for.

On Sunday, Fleck calmly went about his business and carded an

astounding 69 on a brutally tough golf course which was good

enough to beat out Hogan by three strokes.

Hogan’s score of 72 would have been considered a superb round of

golf under the circumstances, yet it just was not enough to beat this

assistant driving range pro that shot the round of his life that Sunday


Maybe there was a greater force at work or maybe it was simply a

combination of Hogan’s weary legs and Fleck happening to catch

fire at the exact right time; but either way, Fleck’s playoff round

score of 69 under the most intense pressure of his career was

nothing short of a miracle.

Fleck would go on to win just two more small PGA Tour events during

the course of his career, while Hogan, as we all know, would finish his

career as one of the greatest golfer of all time.

Hogan and Fleck remained friends and continued to reminisce

about the ’55 Open throughout the remainder of Hogan’s life.  

To this day, Fleck has never strayed from his story about the voice he heard

prior to his Saturday rounds. He continues to believe that there was some

kind of greater force at work allowing him to pull off the greatest upset of


Professional Golfer magazine July 1955

Tour bag used by Jack Fleck

1980 Space Coast Classic trophy won by Jack Fleck

The Senior Tour would have a sub-tournament played on the Friday and

 Saturday played in conjunction with the regular scheduled Senior Tour

 Event. This was labelled as “Super Senior”. Mike Hill won the actual

Senior  Tour event and Jack Fleck won the “Super Senior” event

Driver owned and used by Jack Fleck

Wood owned and used by Jack Fleck

Wedge owned and used by jack Flack

Personal Letter from the President of the Olympic Club (site of Jack Fleck’s

 1955 US Open victory) to Jack Fleck offering him Honorary Life membership

Shoes worn and signed by Jack Fleck

Glove worn and signed by Jack Fleck

Ball played and signed by Jack Fleck

Jack Fleck’s 1st Round scorecard from the 1970 Memphis Open

Marked and signed by Don Massengale

Jack Fleck’s 2nd Round scorecard from the 1970 Memphis Open

Marked and signed by Don Massengale

Jack Fleck’s 2nd Round scorecard from the 1993 Bank One Senior Classic

Marked and signed by Al Besselink

Jack Fleck’s autobiography ‘How I Won The Open’ (signed)

Jack Fleck’s book ‘The Mental Secret to Better Golf’ (signed)