TGA’s Rich History at Willow Brook CC
Tyler — Back in the early 1960s, Marty Fleckman was one of the best amateurs in the country. The Port Arthur native certainly dominated in Texas.
In the last Texas Amateur conducted as a Match Play Championship, Fleckman won the 1964 title at Willow Brook Country Club with a 2-and-1 victory in the final match against Richard Yates. Fleckman was a Third-Team All-American that year at the University of Houston, and he was an integral part of the Cougars’ victory at the 1964 NCAA Championship.
“It’s been more than 50 years, but I remember really liking Willow Brook Country Club,” said Fleckman, who has been the Director of Instruction at BlackHorse Golf Club in Cypress for 22 years. “I was a power player back then, with some finesse around the greens. Willow Brook set up good for me.”
That probably can be said for almost every course Fleckman played back then.
The following year, Fleckman won the 1965 NCAA Individual Championship with a record-setting, two-day total of 135. Led by legendary coach Dave Williams, UH won the team title in 1965, too. Fleckman was named First-Team All-American that season.
Guess what happened in 1966! Yep, the Cougars won another NCAA Championship.
“Dave Williams won 14 national championships,” Fleckman said. “I was on three of those teams.”
Fleckman’s 1966 season at UH was a big one. In addition to his third team national championship, he won the Eastern Amateur, was Medalist at the Western Amateur and earned another First-Team All-American selection.
In 1967, he won the Northeast Amateur and was a member of the victorious Walker Cup team that defeated Great Britain & Ireland, 15-9, at Royal St. George’s.
Before he turned professional, Fleckman played as an amateur in the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol Golf Club. He led a field that included Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer after 18 holes. Fleckman led again after 54 holes, but ultimately finished T18 and won Low Amateur honors.
“I shot a 67 the first day and led the tournament,” Fleckman told the Houston Chronicle in 2010. “I shot 73 in the second round, then came back with a 69 in the third round to lead by one shot. I was having the time of my life.”
Once Fleckman turned pro, his first PGA Tour event was the Cajun Classic Open Invitational in Louisiana. Fleckman birdied his final two holes to get into a playoff, then he drained a 30-foot birdie on the first extra hole to win his first-ever professional start.
He played on the PGA Tour for 13 years. He was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 1986, and into the University of Houston Hall of Honor in 2006. Fleckman, who gives credit to Byron Nelson, Carl Lohren, and Jim Hardy for advancing his game, won the Southern Texas PGA’s Teacher of the Year award in 2007.
In addition to Fleckman and his 1964 exploits, when the 113th Texas Amateur returns to Willow Brook this June, another giant in the game will be on the minds of TGA staff members and volunteers.
Alexander James “AJ” Triggs was a two-time TGA President and a longtime member at Willow Brook. Triggs, who passed away in 2015, was the Tournament Chairman in 1964, when Fleckman put his name on the H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy.
Triggs became a Director on the TGA Board in 1970 and served for more than 35 years with 10 of those on the Executive Committee. While he was probably best known for his tireless volunteerism and passion for giving back to the game, Triggs was a prolific amateur golfer, too.
He won 55 amateur tournaments and was a key member of the University of North Texas golf team that won four consecutive NCAA Championships from 1949-52. Triggs would join Fleckman in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013 Inductees.
Late in his life, Triggs, who never met a stranger and was an incredibly engaging storyteller, wrote an unpublished memoir. It was called View from the Back Nine: Stories from My Life.
In it, Triggs wrote, “I’ve taken more from golf than I given back, but I’ve tried to return some of the benefits by working behind the scenes with the TGA. Sometimes, it’s kind of boring, not really much fun. But somebody did this organizational work so I could come along and enjoy playing. Now it’s my turn.”
With Willow Brook celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, it’s an opportune time to reflect not only on the club’s rich history, but also on the two individuals with enduring legacies as ambassadors for the game of golf. Though their futures in competitive golf took different paths following the 1964 Texas Amateur at Willow Brook, both Fleckman and Triggs made significant and lasting contributions to the entire Texas golf community that continue to help grow and strengthen the game.