As the only two Iowans ever to win a major championship, Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids and Jack Fleck of Davenport always will be bound together in the state's golf and sports history.
Next week, Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, will compete in the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, where Fleck famously defeated the great Ben Hogan in a playoff in 1955.
"Jack Fleck, club pro from eastern Iowa, one of the river towns, won the U.S. Open at Olympic over Ben Hogan," Johnson said earlier this week as he prepared for this week's FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. "You know, he is the only other Iowan to win a major, so obviously our state holds him in very high regard, and rightfully so. He was kind of the local guy guy, club pro guy...that took down Mr. Ben Hogan. I mean, in the U.S. Open. Awesome story. If we would have had the same media coverage then as we do now, I think it would have been an even bigger story. Pretty awesome."
Zach has met Fleck, now 90 years old, a number of times.
"I've gotten the pleasure of meeting him two or three times that I can remember, three or four times maybe," Zach recalled. "I know he was at the '08 U.S. Open, which was in San Diego (Torrey Pines), and then he's at Augusta every other year, maybe even every year. They invite major champions back to play in the Par 3, and he's played and participated. I intend on trying to play with him at some point, but we'll see how that works. A true gentleman... Still kicking [at 90], still going at it, still very witty, very sharp.
"I know there's a lot of proud Iowans that look up to Jack Fleck, me being one of them."
After he plays this week in Memphis, Zach will be off to California to try and match Fleck's feat at the Olympic Club.