Explore the Fox Valley!
Dr. Dave, Part 1
Dr. Dave, Part 2
My memory is likely getting a tad rusty... but
somehow -- at least in this instance -- it doesn't make any difference.
One of my most vivid memories is of a warm, late spring day on the Pottawatomie Golf Course in St.
Charles, Illinois some thirty years ago. Although I was from Geneva, I had
several years earlier met and become close friends with several guys from St. Charles who, as it
turned out, all became involved in various aspects of the game of golf.
B.J. specialized and excelled in turfgrass
management, Rick started as an apprentice, gradually working his way up to the
course/club management end of the game, Don went to
Q-School and took a shot at the
Mini-Tour, hoping to make it to the PGA Tour, and Rich -- after a tour of duty
in the military -- also went to Q-School with the same aspirations as his friend
Don. Rich ultimately played in several professional events, but later concentrated on the teaching aspect of the game. Me?
After college and grad school, I had temporarily bet my talents on the
restaurant business. It must have been fate that eventually brought
us back together on a golf course.
was especially adept at the finesse aspect of the game,
always in deep concentration on every shot, intent on the details that
would improve the results of his game. Years later, I realized that he was
simply concentrating on remaining "in the zone" -- something essential to
success in anyone's round of golf. Don could drive the green on
#2 at Pottawatomie, and he played the game with a sort of reckless abandon that
to me is reminiscent of a combination of John Daly and Phil Mickelson.
Rich was just plain good. His rhythm was an interesting study in contrast: almost
mechanical, but very fluid at the same time. The swing was pretty to watch
and Rich seemed to work on it mentally with every shot, analyzing every aspect
of every inch of every swing (he would later use that same determined analysis
when watching the swings of his students). B.J. was a decent player; I was
pretty much a hacker. But we were just friends having a good time, and no one
seemed to pay much attention to scoring, and certainly none to what lay beyond. We were carefree, single
and enjoying life and a game that, all these years later, we still have fun
playing. (And in the late 70s-early 80s, a five-some at the Park was not
unusual; the course was not that crowded)
It would be easy for me to focus on any one of
the other four who remained connected with the game of golf, as each has an
interesting success story of his own to tell. My wish though, is to
concentrate on Rich Flores, with whom I lost touch for a while. I had
finally discovered my own passion: teaching high school physics, and during that
time I also had the pleasure of coaching the golf teams of Kaneland High School
for nineteen years. The warm spring days were but a distant memory when Rich and I bumped in to one another one sunny
afternoon at a high school golf tournament in Batavia.
That infectious smile, dogged determination
and incredibly positive attitude that I had observed so many years ago was
still a part of the Flores persona. It was then that I discovered that he
had completed the necessary courses and training to become a PGA Teaching
Professional, teaching the game of golf to "local high school players (both
boys and girls teams), college-age players that range from Junior College
through Division 1 schools, adults, young adults and children."
On the day of our "reunion", he was coaching
the Batavia High School Boys Golf Team - something he would do for about seven
seasons. His teams were always disciplined, aggressive and
talented... regularly beating my golfers handily. It was easy to see that
my forte was the mechanics in physics, while Rich's was the mechanics of the
game of golf. He had built a small workshop and
teaching studio in his garage out of which he worked in the winter months (www.richfloresgolf.com),
giving lessons and analyzing swings and putting strokes with various computer
software programs before moving outdoors to one of the local golf courses in the
warmer months (Rich was one of the first in Illinois to use the V1 Pro Digital
Coaching System). I had once asked him when it was
that he had discovered his love for being a golf instructor. Contemplating
the question for only a few seconds, he quickly replied: "right after my son
Kyle was born. I was working at the Settler's Hill Driving Range (located
where the Fox Valley Ice Arena now resides), and it suddenly struck me that 'I really love
this' and I knew then, that's what I wanted to do."
Rich had started his career as an apprentice for
Dennis Johnson -- another St. Charles native -- at Pottawatomie Park, moving to
several local area courses including Pheasant Run, Burr
Hill (now Royal Hawk), and Mill Creek. He worked in varying capacities --
including Head Professional -- but he was always the teacher, and
always preferred teaching to almost any other aspect of the game... other than
-- of course -- playing. Playing is something that, if Rich could find a
way, he would do nonstop. He recently said to me "I really love to play,
and I could easily practice for 6-7 hours every day." My guess is that there is
only a small portion of the populace out there who could say that... let alone do it
without being forced!
Rich has held a lifelong dedication to
the game of golf and to teaching others how to get better at it. He has an
uncanny ability to relate to golfers of all ages and effectively teach them to
improve. He has an incredible eye that can somehow slow a swing down to
the point of seeing every little thing that is going on -- not only with the
club, but with the golfer's body as well. I have watched him; it is easy
to see that he does truly love the game and that he wants to share that passion with
others. He has even helped me get better, and that was no small task!
Don eventually decided that the road to
professional golf was not for him; he got married, raised a family and moved to
Texas. But he is still actively involved in golf. Rick got married and has
also remained in one aspect of the game or another; he currently is teaching
golf lessons. B.J. got married, raised a family, and has remained
connected to the game through his expertise and employment as a course
superintendent and in the turfgrass industry. Rich got married and
raised a family, too. He has been teaching golf since 1981 and still loves
every minute of it.
It has become next to impossible for the five
of us to play as a group anymore-- mostly because of the distance that separates
us, and the personal obligations that have usurped our time. A reunion to
accomplish a friendly round would be awesome. I recently learned that Rich
had been diagnosed with something called Cardiac Amyloidosis, accompanied by
Platelet Cell Discrasnia. It is a nasty disease that Rich is fighting with
herculean effort, wanting to ensure that he can continue to teach the game he
loves. (More info can be found here: www.friendsofrichflores.org;
the site also has a place to sign up to play in a Benefit Golf Outing, where the
money raised will help pay for the cost of fighting the disease)
Knowing his resolve, I have no doubt that Rich Flores will soon be back on the
course and in his teaching studio full time. There will, I'm sure, be
the proverbial line at his door, wanting his help, advice and skills in order to
improve their golf game.
I'm glad fate brought us together again -- on a golf course, appropriately --
and allowed us to rekindle a friendship that has become very special and very
important to me. As a PGA Pro, he does the game proud; as a teacher, one
would be hard-put to find a better one. Anyone who has ever met Rich
Flores knows what it is like to be able to call him a friend. In the meantime, I hope you don't mind if I
indulge myself for a moment while I turn back the clock to that warm spring day so
many years ago and envision four golfers and a hack, alone on the course at
Pottawatomie Park Golf Course. Life was much less complicated back then,
and our only care was whether or not our 2nd shot on hole number three would clear
the lagoon and make it safely onto the green. Oh yeah, and whether or not
we all had time for a cold beer afterward at the local watering hole...