The results could not have been much worse for Steve Flesch on the golf course in 2012. At age 45 he entered a dozen PGA Tour events, missed the cut in all 12, then withdrew from Q-School in an attempt to retain his full-time status.
He rarely played competitively after that season. But it’s not as if Flesch just waited around to turn 50 and join the PGA Tour Champions circuit.
On the advice of friends a few years his senior already playing at the next level, Flesch traded grinding out rounds against 20-somethings on the PGA Tour to playing for side bets on his home course.
“My clubs didn’t just sit in the closet,” Flesch said. “I played a lot of golf. Four, five times a week. I was told you have to stay sharp if you’re going to play out here. It’s not like you turn 50 and just pick it all up again.”
Turns out, Flesch turned 50 in May and rediscovered some of the playing magic that allowed him to rack up four PGA Tour victories and more than $18 million in career earnings.
After missing the cut in his first event on the Champions Tour — the Senior PGA Championship two days after his milestone birthday — Flesch has thrived in the five tournaments since. He’s picked up a pair of top-five finishes and comes to this week’s 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine off an 11th-place finish in the Senior British Open.
The 1998 PGA Tour rookie of the year has put himself into the conversation for this year’s honor for the 50-and-over crowd.
“If I wanted to be some kind of ceremonial player I wouldn’t be playing as well,” Flesch said. “I missed the adrenaline rush and nerves of playing. And the best part is, I’m having fun while doing it.”
Flesch has done on-course work for the Golf Channel and Fox Sports in recent years and acknowledges that, too, has given him some perspective.
“It’s a hard game, and I need to remember that,” he said. “I was one of those who was very intense and wound up on tour. I’m still hard on myself, but I’ve learned to let it go.”
Durant’s happy place
Perhaps no player is looking forward to Friday’s Round 1 of the 3M Championship more than Joe Durant. The defending champion has endured a seesaw season, picking up four top-10s in 15 events but also enduring bouts of over-par inconsistent play.
He shot an opening-round 81 last week in Wales and withdrew after posting the 11-over-par score.
Five days later, any ill thoughts on that round had been erased. Durant beamed as he recalled his victory from a year ago.
“You can be in the worst slump of your life and come back to a course you like or where you’ve played well and it can pull you out of the doldrums a little bit,” he said. “I know the second that the first shot is hit you’re done being the champion. But it still breeds good memories.”
Rounding out the field
Jeff Brehaut’s 6-under 65 at Victory Links in Blaine won Tuesday’s 3M Championship qualifier event. He gets a spot into the 78-player field along with John Elliott (66), Gibby Gilbert (67) and Kevin Johnson (67).