Bedford native still remembered
as one of the great instructors
by golf legends he influenced
By Justin Sokeland
“There is no remembrance of former things, neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.”
Too many prominent people worry about their legacy. How will they be remembered when they are gone? What will be chronicled about them? That’s a little arrogant, considering life is but a vapor that vanishes.
Jim Flick, one of the greatest teachers in the history of golf, had many reasons to consider his place in history. And he cared nothing about it. That’s why, almost four years after his death, the Bedford native is still revered by great men who pause to reflect on the impact Flick had on their lives.
His hometown, thanks to the efforts of the Bedford Recreation Foundation, Flick’s widow Geri and the Parks Department, dedicated the new teaching facility in Flick’s honor on Monday afternoon, and the sparkling Jim Flick Memorial Golf Center at Otis Park is a fitting tribute to a humble man who spent his career teaching thousands. From Jack Nicklaus, still the greatest of all time, to the weekend hacker, to the young and brash kid who needed proper guidance, Flick lived to serve.
That’s why Tom Lehman, a former British Open champion and Ryder Cup captain, drove from Columbus, Oh. – taking time away from his preparation for the U.S. Senior Open – to attend the official ceremony and ribbon cutting for the new indoor training facility. Lehman, back in 1990, was that brazen rookie who knew he was good but was smart enough to know what he lacked. Flick helped him discover it.
Lehman found a teacher to tone his sweeping hook into a tamer and deadly draw, but more importantly forged a friendship that lasted 22 years.
“A good coach helps a person develop confidence,” Lehman said. “The end result is you learn all you can learn, so you don’t depend on it as much. I would see him, just to make sure I was on track. The idea of working on something new wasn’t happening any more. But it was him saying ‘You’re better than those guys, go out there and kick some butt. Go believe in your talent.’
“Jim Flick was all about becoming the best you could be. His goal was to see you get there and become as good as you possibly could be with the talent you had. He was not a guy to promote himself. He wanted his work to speak for itself, and he became one of the greatest at what he does.”
Time for a quick history lesson for the younger generation:
Flick was born in Bedford on Nov. 17, 1929. His father Coleman was a three-time Bedford city champion, but the Flick family moved to New Albany before his senior year. Bedford lost a basketball star who would play at Wake Forest (where Flick roomed with Arnold Palmer for six months).
After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Flick started in golf as an assistant professional at Evansville Country Club. That was the springboard to a phenomenal career. Flick taught in 23 countries, wrote five books, was inducted into multiple halls of fame, and worked with some of the top professional players in the modern era.
Foremost on that list was Nicklaus. When Nicklaus lost his famed mentor (Jack Grout) in 1989, he turned to Flick for help as Nicklaus was making the transition to the Senior PGA Tour. They formed a formidable tandem, and launched a golf school with their names on it, but an even stronger relationship. “All he ever thought about was somebody else,” Nicklaus said during his tribute for Flick’s funeral. “I’m proud of our friendship.”
Flick, who taught the game as an art form, would have been proud of the benefits the Golf Center brings to the community. Members of the Bedford North Lawrence golf teams, who have already made use of the driving mats and practice green in the heated facility during the winter months, were in attendance for the dedication. They might not have heard of Flick, certainly never met him, but they are now part of his legacy.
“One of the things small towns do really well is invest in their youth,” Lehman said. “They do things to allow the kids to develop and grow, to become significant adults. That’s what I see here.
“It’s an amazing sport for so many reasons. It teaches so much. More than anything, it teaches you to get back up when you’ve been knocked down. The game of golf knocks you down continually, over and over, and you have to get up. You can’t ever quit.
“This is an investment in the sport that will teach you to never quit. I really hope you take advantage of it and understand the sacrifice of the folks who made this happen.”
Mike Gray, another Indiana native who is now the head professional at Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach, also made the trip back to his home state to honor his hero. He connected with the BNL kids, urging them to look up YouTube videos of Flick and take them to heart.
The hearts of those closest to Flick still hurt since his death on Nov. 5, 2012.
“People tell me they think about him every day, they miss him so much,” Lehman said. “Golf is not as fun. The people around you make it so worthwhile. I think about Jim no longer being here. The memories are wonderful, but the lack of Jim makes the game less fun. It’s not as good as it used to be. There’s a void created that you can’t replace.”
Even at the end, Flick worried about others. As Lehman was preparing for the 2012 Schwab Cup Championship, he arrived at the course for the third round to be told of Flick’s passing, and his friends huddled for a quiet prayer. As it turned out, rumors of Flick’s demise were a bit premature. When Lehman, already starting to grieve, called Geri to offer condolences, he was stunned to hear Jim – who had already heard reports of his own death on television – on the phone.
“Wow,” one of Lehman’s friends said when hearing of Flick’s vitality and witnessing Lehman’s reaction, “that was some prayer.” Lehman went out and shot 62 that day. “He said ‘Go be Tom Lehman,’” Lehman said. “I guess I was better than Tom Lehman.”
Lehman won the event. Flick died the next day.
His legacy will live on.
JIM FLICK FILE
Born: Nov. 17, 1929, Bedford, Ind.
Died: Nov. 5, 2012, Carlsbad, Calif.
-taught over 200 tour professionals, including Jack Nicklaus and Tom Lehman
-directed golf schools for Golf Digest and ESPN, and teamed with Nicklaus to form the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools from 1991-2003
-PGA Teacher of the Year 1988
-Inducted into World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame, 2002
-Inducted into PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, 2011
-Wrote 5 books on golf
-Named Top 10 teacher in the 20th century by Golf World