BOB WEST — Perfect time to look back on Southeast Texas’ impact at the U.S. Open

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

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Though Southeast Texas’ history on golf’s biggest stage – the U.S. Open – is limited, there have been some truly special and memorable moments authored by guys with ties to our neck of the woods.

So, what better time than the eve of the 122nd U.S. Open to do a feel-good rehash.

Port Arthur’s Marty Fleckman in 1967 and Groves’ Andrew Landry in 2016 made the biggest splashes. Both literally came out of nowhere to ambush one of golf’s most hallowed events, all the way down to playing in the final twosome on Sunday.

Fleckman was at least recognized as a potential future star when he went nose to nose with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in the 1967 Open at Baltusrol. Marty had won the 1965 NCAA championship at the University of Houston as the anchor of three consecutive UH titles, but he was still an amateur.

His recognition level quickly soared following a first-day 67 that led Nicklaus by two. The 23-year-old Thomas Jefferson graduate faded a bit on day two with a 73, then came roaring back to grab the 54-hole lead on the strength of a 69.

Nipping at his heels, one back, was the Hall of Fame trio of Nicklaus, Palmer and Billy Casper. Think how intimidating that had to be.

Predictably, the weight of winning the U.S. Open as an amateur was too much. Fleckman struggled to a closing 80 and finished tied for 18th, as Nicklaus hoisted the trophy. Still, Fleckman had tread where few in golf ever have or ever will.

Landry didn’t make quite as big a bang but he was close. A college star at Arkansas but a journeyman on mini tours heading into 2016, Andrew qualified his way into the Open at Oakmont. Once there, he unveiled a Superman cape with a first-day 66.

It was the lowest ever opening round in that historic venue’s storied U.S. Open history.

While the experts expected him to fade, especially in rainy conditions that forced continual stopping and starting, Landry would not go away. He posted a one-over 71 in round two, then a 70 in round three that got him into the final pairing with Shane Lowry.

Sadly, the pride of the Pea Patch suffered a final-round fate much like Fleckman, skidding to a 78 to finish T15. That, however, remains the highest U.S. Open finish for an area player. It also served notice Landry was the real deal, as two subsequent PGA Tour titles would underscore.

The other bit of local Open saber rattling came last year from Lamar ex MJ Daffue. Like Landry, Daffue had to qualify his way in, then came out smoking at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He birdied 4 of his first 7 holes, leading to a three-under 67 that was T2 on Thursday.

Daffue stayed in contention with a 72, stumbled to a 78 on Saturday, then bounced back strong with a 69 that earned a tie for 31st.

Two other Southeast Texans, meanwhile, made U.S. Open cuts. Best finishes were a T17 for Bruce Lietzke in 1981 and a T47 for Chris Stroud in 2010.

Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at