Steve Flesch almost makes PGA field
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Steve Flesch nearly made PGA Championship history on Thursday but came up just a sore neck, injured ankle or pulled muscle short.
The veteran PGA Tour player learned from PGA of America chief championships officer Kerry Haigh shortly before noon ET that he was the highest eligible player not yet in the field for the year's final major despite being 93rd on the alternate list. So if one more golfer withdrew, Flesch would be teeing it up in his first major since the 2010 Masters.
Did he ever think of saying no, like so many had already done?
"To me, it was more if the opportunity arose, I'd be crazy not to at least give it a shot," Flesch said. "I'm here. I'm the only guy here who can play. ... At least go out and give it a shot rather than the field play one guy short. If you're here and you're eligible and somebody says, '$10 million purse, you got a chance at it,' why not go play?"
Flesch, who was on site at Valhalla Golf Club working as an analyst for the Golf Channel, had to scramble to find equipment after getting off the air at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Kevin Drenth, an assistant golf professional at Valhalla who used to be a caddie at the course, went in search of clubs for Flesch, who said he had only his brand of golf balls and a glove. To throw another wrench in the works, Flesch is a lefty, so there were no usable sets to loan him at the Valhalla pro shop.
So Drenth traveled a few minutes down the road to a local store, Golf Headquarters, and grabbed whatever he could find. Driver? Check. Irons? Check. Putter? Check. Bag with his sponsor on it? Check. Flesch was so unsure of his chances of playing that he didn't even take the plastic wrapping off the clubs.
The four-time PGA Tour winner even went through the locker room wondering which competitors might wear a size 9 shoe so that he could borrow a pair for the day. If he was to get into the field, his regular clubs and golf equipment would be able to get here in time for his Friday pairing, whenever that might be.
Drenth, who caddied in two Senior PGA Championships over the years at Valhalla, was going to work for Flesch if he made the field. But loop No. 3 never materialized.
Next on the list was Robert Garrigus, who the PGA of America said wasn't on site and was unable to get to the course in time for a potential spot in the field. Same for Justin Hicks, who was next. And, according to the PGA, so was everyone else up to alternate No. 92.
Although no statistics are kept on such things, the PGA of America said it thought it was a record to go that deep into the alternate list.
To put Flesch's situation in historical context, John Daly was the ninth alternate when he got into the field at the 1991 PGA Championship. Daly went on to win at Crooked Stick, only about a two-hour drive from Valhalla.
Flesch, who played collegiately at Kentucky, finished tied for 21st last week in the Barracuda Championship, his best finish in four starts this season on the PGA Tour. For his career, he has five top-10s in major championships, with a T-5 at the 2008 Masters being the highlight.
Officially, when Jason Bohn teed off at 2:47 p.m. ET on Thursday, Flesch's dream ended, which could have been a good thing because he had to be back at work at 6 a.m. Friday anyway.
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