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August 9, 2016

Bruce Fleisher

Columbus, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome the 2001 U.S. Senior Open Champion Bruce Fleisher here in the Media Center. Bruce is playing in his 14th U.S. Senior Open this year. In addition to his win, he finished runner-up in 2000 as well.

Additionally, Bruce, you have a special connection to Scioto. In 1968, you won the U.S. Amateur here as a 19-year-old, a one-stroke victory over Vinny Giles, when the championship was conducted at stroke play. It's been almost 50 years, hard to believe it, but what do you remember most from that week?

BRUCE FLEISHER: It was interesting. I remember the 18th tee, hearing someone in the gallery say it to me, Bruce, if you make 5, you win. At that time, the scoring was very sketchy. You really didn't know where you stood.

I remember the 15th tee. I looked back, and there was the scoreboard, but all the names were kind of scrambled. Even though I thought I was leading, I had no idea what Vinny was doing. In fact, I don't even know if his name was on the scoreboard, to be honest with you.

But when I hit the tee shot and as I'm walking up to the green, I hit a 3 iron about 20 feet which, incidentally, today I can't get to 18 from the back tees. Oh, gosh. But I remember seeing in big red numbers, Vinny Giles, 65. I'm saying, oh, my God. And if I had made 5, I would be in a playoff and maybe would not have won the U.S. Amateur Championship.

So I don't know if he was misinformed or he was just trying to unrattle me. I don't know. I'm not quite sure. I forget who it was.

Let me go back a minute. Yesterday, as I'm walking to the putting green, there's a picture of me shaking Bob Barbarossa's hand, and there's a guy next to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, do you remember me?

So I'm looking at him, and I'm thinking, let's see, 48 years ago. I don't remember last week. But he says, look in that picture. Meanwhile, he was about a foot taller than I was. He said, that's me carrying your golf bag. And he was my caddie. He came up to me. And I said to myself, my God, it's just so -- I can't really find the word for it, but coming back, looking at the memorabilia in the clubhouse and the pictures, it's pretty special. It's pretty special.

THE MODERATOR: And how many times have you been back to Scioto since 1968?

BRUCE FLEISHER: This is really it. I've played in Jack's tournament, but I don't remember coming over here. My wife would have lunch with Barbara a couple times, and she'd say, Bruce, your picture is in the foyer. I haven't played here since.

I can honestly tell you, I know they've made some changes. The trees are gone, obviously, that I remember that were there, but I don't really remember a whole lot about it, which bothers the hell out of me.

Q. When you drove in, whether it was yesterday or today, for the first time, did you have a flood of emotions, memories kind of coming back to you as you pulled onto the property?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Well, I'll tell you what. Let's go back a minute. Obviously, I did. Now, sitting back and watching the game grow -- and hopefully it's growing.

Watching whether it's the PGA or The Open, it's about memories for me. Again, like I said, I retired really from the game three years ago. I've played very little. And it was more me rather than -- and I like to tell the story. I want to share it with you. Some of you may have heard it.

This year at the Legends, it really kind of hit me because I look at Jack and I look at Trevino -- and, of course, these were my peers that beat me up my whole life; Player, Tommy Jacobs, Bobby Nichols, Lou Graham, Charles Coody. It finally hit me that this age thing is not fun, and it's flying by now. It's kind of a sorrow for me. It's a sorrow that Jack, being the greatest that ever lived as far as in our generation with his record. I was very lucky to have done what I did, certainly. My career was mediocre at best, for the most part, on the PGA Tour.

But I'd like to share one story with you, and I'll try to get through this if I can. In fact, this is going to happen next Monday in Detroit. They're going to honor Jack.

But I want to say in 2006, it was the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Amateur Championship, and there was a man that was the tournament director who was trying to find all the amateurs to come and support Arnie for this particular day, and there were five of us in Portland playing at the time. And they want us there Sunday night in Detroit, which was impossible because the three-hour difference, time zone.

And there was a private plane sent for us that had some problems, and Jerry Pate and Bob Murphy decided they were scared of the plane. They moved on to Pebble Beach. And Jay Sigel, myself and John Harris decided to go, which we did.

We landed at 4:30 in the morning. The events were 7:00 breakfast, 9:30 pictures, 11:00 shotgun. So John Harris and Jay Sigel decided, we're going to skip breakfast. We hadn't slept all night. I said to myself, it's already 6:00. I'm going to breakfast. I'm here for Arnie. This is why we're here.

So I open up the door, and there must have been a thousand people having breakfast. And I'm saying to myself, wow, this is bigger than I thought. So I found my table, I introduced myself, and in the interim I see Lanny Wadkins and Vinny Giles and Phil Mickelson, guys that I knew, Nathaniel Crosby, and I introduced myself.

Not more than two minutes, the speaker gets up and says, ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to inform you that Fleisher and Sigel and John Harris arrived early this morning at 4:30 and won't be joining us. Of course, I wanted to be recognized, and I raised my hand, which was a big mistake, because when I raised my hand, Bruce Fleisher, come on up. And I'm saying, oh, God.

So I worked my way up to the podium, and he hands me the mic, and there's Arnold Palmer right there, big old smile, probably half-cocked. Who knows? 7:00 in the morning, you know Arnie. And I got the mic, and I'm shaking. I'm in front of a thousand people. I'm thinking, what am I going to do? What am I doing here?

And all of a sudden, I look at Arnie, and I said, Arnold, I want to bring you back in time. All of a sudden, he kind of sits up. I said, I want to bring you back to 1969 at Augusta, and I want to bring you back to 8:22 Thursday morning on the 1st tee, and I want you to think about this 20-year-old who finds out Monday afternoon he's playing with the King.

And I want you to think about the sleepless Tuesday night, and you can only imagine what's going through this young man's -- Wednesday night, knowing at 8:22 he's playing with you, Arnie, the King.

And I said, Arnold -- excuse me for a second. I get very emotional here. I said, Arnie, I can remember like right now trying to tee the ball up, just praying that I can get this thing off the ground, and I start crying. Arnold Palmer starts crying. The whole room starts crying.

So finally, Nathaniel Crosby jumps up and says, Fleish, you're killing us, stop it! So after about -- it felt like eternity, maybe 20 seconds, I got my emotions back. And I said, Arnie, I don't know if you remember that day and time, but you shot 73, and I had 69. The place went crazy.

But why I tell you this story, because now it's about memories. And I can guarantee you, whether it's Jack or Trevino or Gary or Palmer, we're all kind of sitting back reminiscing.

Just like today, I have a friend of mine I haven't seen in years, Dick Drager, and he's a golf pro that worked for Golf Digest for many years. He's running into people he hasn't seen in 30, 40 -- in fact, there's a guy here that showed up that he went to college with 50 years ago that was reintroduced. Just a great time, just a great game.

THE MODERATOR: Certainly a lot of memories from your career, from the U.S. Amateur to the Senior Open win and a lot of great friends and relationships, it seems like, over the years. So let's open it up to some questions for Mr. Fleisher.

Q. Fleish, going to memories, you said you met your caddie. What is his name, and what is he doing now, and what did you guys talk about?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Well, Dennis Turning, nickname Hollywood. I've known Dennis since he was 17 years old. I think he grew up in Hartford.

Dennis, it's kind of interesting, Dennis was a pretty smart guy. He had a knack for going for the best players. He's worked for Floyd. He's worked for Kite. He's worked for Watson.

When I was about 49 years old, Dennis kind of romanced me. At 50, I had no idea what was going to happen, to be quite honest with you. I knew I was prepared, but he sat me down, and he said, you know, I had a player, I made him a multimillionaire and I never even got a Christmas card.

So we're kind of talking, and, of course, I said, Dennis, I'd love to have you. You're a professional caddie. I've never really had that luxury, having a professional caddie on my bag. I said, if I win a million dollars first year out, it's $100,000 -- I just threw it out. Thank God I didn't go $200,000. I said, if I win a million, would $100,000 make you happy? Oh, yeah, Bruce, no problem.

Dennis was pretty smart because he -- it was like Callaway when Callaway signed me at 48. Back then, the Senior Tour was where they really keyed their marketing, and they were looking at players that were coming up. So Dennis kind of did the same thing because he had worked for Weiskopf. He knew what was out here, he knew what was coming, and he went after me because I won my $2.4 million. Come December, he said, well? I said, well what? $100,000 you promised me. I said, excuse me? But I had to live up to it.

But Dennis -- I brought Dennis back out only because he's very positive. He's very caring. If I scold him, which is very rare -- and that's what caddies are for anyway. They're going to get the brunt of it, be it wrong or right, and we have a good time together. We really do. We kind of grew up together.

Q. Hi, Bruce. Traditionally, the Senior Tour, the Champions Tour, once you turn 50, guys seem to have a lot of success in the first few years. Is it just harder when you get older to kind of keep that going? You get around 55 or so, is there reasons, you think, why guys cash in the most when they're first on the Tour?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Well, if you asked Bernhard Langer, he'd say no.

Q. There's always an exception, right?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Yes, there's always an exception to the rule.

You know, if you look at the history book and you look at the stats, that's what happens. I don't know if you just lose the fire, or I really think it's a lot of age related stuff because a 50-year-old, you know, if he's ready, he's going to beat a 60-year-old. He's tired. You've been there and kind of done that. It's not that you want to keep it going. Hale is still out here for some reason still beating it. I don't understand. That's him, you know. It's just a love of the game.

So it seems to be that number, about 56 or 57, when things start -- a lot of it could be the concentrated effort; not putting the time into it, not putting the work into it. It's just a really simple formula. Having success like that, you know, and I've tried to talk to these guys that come out and try to make them understand, you are never going to become a superstar out here. You've already really made your name, if you made that name, whether it's Watson or Kite or Raymond Floyd, Jack, Gary.

The other guys that make up the field, it's an opportunity for them, you know, money. Just plain fact. So you could win every week out here. It's never going to make you a Jack Nicklaus. You could dominate. It's going to make you very comfortable and very satisfied and very respectful.

And I try to downplay it. I say, enjoy the ride. Enjoy the time you're here because here's an opportunity. Here's a gift to continue something you love. And believe me, 50 and over still playing golf at this level, you're very lucky to have this thing going and moving.

Q. Bruce, a lot of talk about memories. Let's talk about the present. What are your expectations for this week? You haven't played much, as you said. What do you hope to accomplish? What is this week about for you?
BRUCE FLEISHER: You know, I'd like to give you excuses here because I have a very good excuse.

About a year and a half ago, I was running through Atlanta and I tripped. It was the first injury I ever had in my golfing life. I've been very fortunate. I tore a meniscus. And I thought -- you know, we all think we're immune to whatever is thrown your way physically, and I tried everything from acupuncture to laser lights to building up my quad, and finally I just said -- I couldn't walk. I couldn't walk without limping all over the place.

So I went in, and I had three or four different suggestions and not doing it, you know, but I was scoped two months ago, and I had four holes drilled. So virtually, I hadn't played in over a year and a half, to be quite honest with you.

The last month, I've tried to jump start it, and I ache all over. So by my expectations -- and I'll give you a quick story here. Joe Edmund called me up the other night, and Joe and I, we played on the Walker Cup team. He's just a great guy. He qualified. He hasn't played in seven years out here, and he says, Bruce, promise me -- and I'm playing with him. Promise me that we will laugh and we're going to enjoy this ride, and whatever we shoot, whether it's 70 or 90, it's going to be okay because the wives are still going to love us tomorrow.

That's really the way I'm going into it. I have no expectations at all. In fact, my expectations are not in a good spot as far as, you know, we're always dealing with our self-image. The reality is it's okay. It has to come to an end sooner or later. I'm just going to cherish how wonderful the people have been around here to have accepted me coming back. And walking through that clubhouse, I'm going to hold my head up high no matter what happens.

I don't have any predictions whatsoever because this golf course is hard and it is beautiful and it is special, and that's what I'm going to take from it.

Q. Pete had asked you earlier about your caddie. I think he was referring to your caddie from 1968 that was in the photo. What was his name?
BRUCE FLEISHER: You know what, his first name was Gordon, and then I'm embarrassed to tell you -- he's coming out, I think, Thursday. He became a lawyer, and he had actually just retired about six months ago.

But it really hit me kind of, wow, it's 48 years. Here's a kid, 17, who caddied for me introducing himself. It's just a marvelous, wonderful feeling. Can't feel it, touch it, you know.

Q. You were a runner-up in 2000, going back to memories, and then you came back and won this championship the next year. Can you tell me about the process of winning this championship or any kind of national championship and what someone this week is going to have to go through from your experience?
BRUCE FLEISHER: I remember Hale Irwin played phenomenal in 2000, Saucon Valley, and I had the lead going into the last round. We actually both played well. He just played better.

I hate to tell you, the game has just changed. It does pass you by because the sensationalism, hitting it long, I mean, I'm watching Vijay out there, and I can't even see it. It gets to a certain peak out there, and it's gone. It's just such a big advantage.

There's three par 4s here I struggle getting home. When you're talking about 30, 40, 50 yards advantage, you can't compete. And I don't think length was that big a deal at Salem. The course this week too, you've still got to keep it in play. And I think if Vijay doesn't keep it in play, he's going to have a long week. These greens are not susceptible to certainly coming out of the rough. I don't care if you have a wedge in your hand or whatever.

The guy that wins this week, he's going to have a special week, and he's going to really make very few mistakes, and he'd better be on his game. And I'd love to hear the USGA, what their predictions are as far as what the winning number could be because they were within one shot of what I shot, which I thought was pretty interesting.

In fact, Rick -- he was the president at the time. Anyway, he hands me an envelope at the end of the tournament, and it was one shot away from the score that I shot that they predicted at the beginning of the week. The USGA is pretty good at this. They know. They can set it up and figure out what we're going to shoot, which is very, very interesting. I mean, it's talent. That's talent.

I don't know if I answered your question, but certainly The Open, whether it's this Open or the PGA or the U.S. Open, you have to hit fairways. You're not going to win this thing missing. Like Jason Day, he hits two fairways at Firestone on Saturday and shoots 68 or whatever. I don't understand it. Just a different game.

Q. I just wondered if you had a thought about Furyk's 58 the other day, if you ever thought that somebody would shoot that or if you ever had a round where maybe during the round you've got a shot at something like that.
BRUCE FLEISHER: I had one at the RJR Tournament in Winston-Salem. Actually, if I'd birdied the last hole, I'd break 60. I hit a perfect tee shot, par 5. The problem was I was in between clubs, between a 4 wood and a 3 iron, and the yardage -- I wanted to hit a 3 iron in the bunker because the pin was left, and Dennis wants me to cut a 4 wood. Well, you don't cut a 4 wood into a left-hand pin, and I just -- I listened to him, and I hit it straight. I was lucky to make 5.

So that was my only time I had a chance. But, listen, Jim's a very special player. My hat's off to him. I can't fathom somebody shooting 58, certainly not there. But everything's got to be on all cylinders. He's a great putter. Once he gets going, you see what he does. He was out all last year.

Getting back to Jim and Tabitha -- and, again, in my position now, he held a wonderful benefit at my club down in Palm Beach, Banyan Country Club. I don't know if you guys know his foundation, but it's Feed the Poor, and it's hard to believe in this country, in this day and age, that there are kids who actually go home on Friday that don't eat over the weekend.

There's a couple of schools down there in Boynton. Anyway, he creates this unbelievable foundation where he has these golf tournaments. Members get involved. And every Friday, they bulk up a knapsack and they give it to every student, knowing that they're going to eat.

So Jim does a lot of good in the communities. Probably not too many people know this, but it was a special event, and it really opened up my eyes.

Again, 58, that's going to be around for a while. Of course, didn't somebody shoot 58 on a buy.com or one of the tours? Pretty good stuff.

Q. Bruce, I'd like put something on your schedule for next year, but the Senior Open is at Salem again next year. What's your thoughts about that? Have you entertained any ideas?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Let me tell you where I'm going to be next year. In the clubhouse. Maybe they'll put me in the booth on 18. I'm not going to be playing, no. This is pretty much it for me, honestly. I hate to say it. It hurts me. I could cry about it. But I've seen its better day, and it's just not fun anymore. I don't want to work that hard anymore, and I don't like playing early in the morning anymore. I've gotten used to kind of lollygagging until about 10:30, 11:00.

So, no. Now, I'd like to come if I'm invited, but I'll go anyway. I think it would be a nice gesture, and it would be fun. Fun to watch.

THE MODERATOR: Bruce Fleisher, you're off with Joe Edmund, 2:13, on the 10th tee on Thursday. Have a good time this week, and we appreciate an amazing career you've had out here.

BRUCE FLEISHER: Thanks, guys. I appreciate you making it special for me.

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