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June 28, 2000
LES UNGER: You just missed Arnold Palmer.
BRUCE FLEISHER: He has been my idol, let me tell you, forever. A special man.
LES UNGER: This is your debut here. You have not played this course before.
BRUCE FLEISHER: I played yesterday. And I got the opportunity to play it again. And it
is very simple. Of course, it is always simple in the Open: It is fairways and greens. And
that is not always easy. But the golf course is in great condition. Just superlative. The
greens, I should have played more putt-putts growing up. I could have been more creative.
But I don't know. In two days, you can really learn as much as you need to learn. I mean,
I had a putt yesterday of about 20 feet, and I think I had a 20-foot break. So you have to
be very creative.
LES UNGER: Are you happy with the year you have been having?
BRUCE FLEISHER: My wife is. The year has been pretty good so far this year. Larry has
kind of kept me in check here a little bit. So we are having a good run. Of course Hale is
playing good too. Absolutely. I have said it once, I will say it again, it's an
opportunity, certainly for me, and happy to be here.
Q. You have had a hard couple of months. Have you had a hard time regaining your focus
that you had before your father passed away?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Actually, Dick, you know, Dad was very, very sick. And it does coming
down, he said: "Bruce, I don't need you here." He was a very private man. He
never really opened up. And I think deep down, obviously, he was very proud. But he said,
"Bruce, you got to go do your thing. I am going to be fine." So he was pretty
strong in that respect. He knows my love for the game. And really nothing anybody could
really do at that point. Tried to comfort Mom, the family. But he said, "Go do what
you do the best." And that is play golf. So I took it in stride. As far as regaining
my enthusiasm, I think it has changed, Richard. We are all different. And I always played
for somebody else rather than myself, and I am really trying to learn to play for myself
than for others. And I always tried to prove to him or Mom that I guess I was adequate or
maybe belonged. However, it has been a struggle. I don't really feel it has affected my
golf that much. I have affected my golf. My drive, I think as long as I stay in the top
two or three or four money leaders this year - that is going to certainly give me
enthusiasm that I am going to need, otherwise you get stale out here. You are playing a
lot of golf; you are under a lot of strain. The SENIOR TOUR isn't the other Tour, I do
understand it. But you are still dealing with yourself and emotions. I wish I could learn
how not to; but, unfortunately, it is there.
Q. Do you reflect at all about how competitive you have been and the accomplishments
you have made going against more renowned players on the PGA TOUR and how you have gotten
into become one of the best players on the SENIOR TOUR, and what thoughts do you have
BRUCE FLEISHER: Well, I had the opportunity to do an outing Monday with Tom Lehman in
Minneapolis. And it was for raising dollars for a children's charity, a cancer research
hospital called the Dayton Challenge. I think that is what it is all about. I am beyond
trying to be the best out here. I don't think that is important. Richard gave me a book a
few months ago. I have read a book. It is called The Second Half. Now it is time to give
back. I struggled most of my career, as far as you know, being the best you could be.
Never really getting to where you thought you could get to. I have always said - I will
been at the right place at the right time when I turn 50. Arnold Palmer was 68. Nicklaus
just turned 60. So the SENIOR TOUR is an -- again, is a different animal. It is all
really, I think, age-related, even though Trevino won last week, which was wonderful for
the Senior Tour. If you look at record books, most of the wins are 50 to 55. Those are the
years that you really have to push. I played through my 40s. I stayed competitive. And
when I turned 50, I was ready. So you know, the magnitude of it has really never hit me. I
am trying to have fun. I am trying to enjoy the people. And if someone wants to make me
out to be the best out here, terrific. I am not -- I don't dwell on it. (inaudible).
Q. You said you were prepared to play well when you turned 50. Did winning last year
surprise you at all last year -- your success last year at all?
BRUCE FLEISHER: I am going to give you a couple of chronological -- how it all
happened, how it came about. I played through my 40s. And when I was 49, I got in the hunt
a couple of times, once at Westchester and once at the B. C. I played in the Pebble Beach
Invitational in November, which used to be called the Spalding. This was before the
school, Qualifying School. There were about 30 Senior players that played, and I was low
Senior, which really didn't mean a whole lot that week. I think I finished fourth that
week. But I beat every Senior by ten shots. Most of us most of the time tried pretty hard.
I know I hardly let my guard down. I thought that was very instrumental going into the
Qualifying School. The Qualifying School -- looked around. I saw guys I hadn't seen in 30
years, and I am wondering: I can't even believe these guys are still alive much less
trying to play golf. But I did see guys that I have played with, grew up through the
years, that I felt I could beat and did beat. And looking at the early age spots, I felt,
"Gee, all I need is one spot." Everybody else is looking at there is age spots.
There is 150 guys. After finishing second there, that was a big lift, certainly for both
Allen Doyle and myself. Then there was a player by the name of Roger Kennedy who was in
the South Florida section when I was off the Tour, and he had told me, he said,
"Bruce, get ready for Key Biscayne." Which was our first tournament. "Most
of these guys take the winter off, they are not ready, they use it as a practice
tournament to get ready for the Florida swing. But if you are ready, you can win that golf
tournament." He was right. I got ready for it. I came out swinging. So that was big.
That was big.
Q. You had won a U.S. Amateur Championship so many years ago.
BRUCE FLEISHER: Several years ago?
Q. Few years ago.
BRUCE FLEISHER: Wow!.
Q. To win the U.S. Senior Open, could you put that in perspective? Another USGA event,
a Championship, what would that mean to you? And compare back then and what you are doing
BRUCE FLEISHER: A lot of these Senior players seem to think - and I don't know if it is
something that they just try to throw at you, you know, Senior, U.S. Open -- you know,
what does it mean? You get a lot of different answers. You get a Gary Player, and this is
the most important week of his life -- and it should be. You get a Hubert Green, and he
says, "Oh, it's the SENIOR TOUR. It doesn't mean anything." But this would be a
nice icing on the cake for me. Again, I haven't really dwelled on it too much, because we
are playing so much golf out here. I don't know if I am coming or going half the time,
honestly. So I'd love to win this week. And I'd love to put it on my resume, and I got all
those other bonuses. Bottomline is money. I am in it for the money, I am going to be
honest with you. I don't need the adulation. I don't need the pat on the back "how
good you are." Oh, I'd love to win it. To win this week you have got to be on. You
have got to be good. The person who wins this week will be the best player this week, let
me tell you, because there is -- even though you are going to get some luck out there
with, maybe, lies and position on the greens, you better hit fairways and greens or you
will not finish.
BRUCE FLEISHER: I am always tinkering with my golf swing for -- three months ago I
tried changing my grip and I really thought I was on to something. Last couple of weeks I
struggled. Maybe panicking because this week was coming up subconsciously, so Monday I
went back to my old grip, so after three weeks of busting it, I decided to go back to my -
what got me here in the first place. So I am a little bit off, but hopefully, you know, by
tomorrow I will be ready.
Q. Did you try to get a local caddie?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Actually I had a guy about 80 years old set up. I was going to hire him
just to walk around. If I can find him today, I will. And just kind of show me the greens
a little bit.
Q. His name is Cotton?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Is that his name?
Q. Yes. I heard you talk about the grip change a couple of months ago. You said you
were doing that as part of a future endeavor, keep the swing going, the game going, kind
of thing. Get nervous with it all of a sudden or did it just not work?
BRUCE FLEISHER: My body and my mind, you know, I thought physically I could do it. I
thought I had the time to do it. I gave myself three months and I mean, if you look at my
stats yardage-wise, I picked up 20, 25 yards, but I gave up consistency and unfortunately
the bottom line in this game is control; especially when you come to an event like this.
So a lot more control when I rotate or whatever -- that is what got me here versus
transferring the energy I thought I was picking up. It is not worth it. If I look at my
stats this year compared to last year they are not even in the same ballpark. I will
probably fool around again. It is just the nature of the game. Everybody wants to tinker;
get a little bit better, but you have got to be careful.
Q. Give us three guys for whom you think this course is best suited.
BRUCE FLEISHER: Well, I think I got to go with the guys that are playing well.
Obviously Hale has got to be, he will be my No. 1 choice because he drives the ball so
well. Walter Hall has been playing wonderful golf. I played last week with him and he is
full of confidence. He has never won a golf tournament but he is due. Leonard Thompson has
been playing well too since he switched to the Callaway ball. I had to throw that in.
Q. Arnold was just here --
BRUCE FLEISHER: I am telling you ask, Leonard. You ask Hall. They are both using the
Callaway ball. They are both -- but, let's see. Got to go with Larry Nelson. Doug Tewell
is a good driver of the ball. I would say the fellows that can hit the ball in play,
straight. Distance is not a big deal this week.
Q. Could you expand a little bit on equipment; compare like when you first started
playing with the old hickory shafts or whatever and now -- (laughter) --
BRUCE FLEISHER: I remember Warwick Hills, Buick Open I got off the Tour in the '80s I
went back in the early '90s and I remember the 18th hole which was, what, 430, 440. I was
hitting driver, 2-iron. Then the steel head came out and the last time I think I played I
hit driver 8-iron, driver 9-iron, so big difference. Big difference. I have always said
though you still got to make it from six feet. No matter how far you hit it, you still
have to make it from six feet. You have got putt. That is another part of the game.
Q. I have heard these stories about these wonderful pants you used to wear in the '70s,
these guys telling me about the bell bottoms and the colors. Do you remember any of that?
BRUCE FLEISHER: I remember when I played in Augusta with Arnold Palmer 1969 Clifford
Roberts told me that I was not allowed to wear bell bottoms. And what amazed me this year,
they allowed David Duval to wear a collarless shirt. I thought we are really reaching low
there. But I had to go out and by a brand new wardrobe; couldn't wear my bell bottoms, but
I do have those pants hanging up in my closet. Of course I could only get one leg in them.
I think the USGA actually has the other pair hanging up somewhere. I used to fray my
Q. As we all did. With your success, have you developed like a cult following now, like
a second generation of fans so to speak?
BRUCE FLEISHER: Let's see, last year I was playing Sarasota, there was these group of
six ladies: "We love Brucy baby." They were the same girls in 1969 that saw me
play at Augusta. They had to be in their 60s by now, so... Late 50s.
End of FastScripts