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Rich Flores: PGA Pro, Teacher & Friend

Rich Flores holding golf club

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 that of a warm, late spring day. It’s from the Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles, Illinois, some forty years ago.

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Close Friends, The Game of Golf, and Fate

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.

Rich Flores golf
Don Timm & Rich Flores

Essential to Success

Rick 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”. That’s 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 very 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. Certainly no one could conceive what lay beyond. We were carefree, single, and enjoying life and a game that, all these years later, we still have fun playing. (In the late 70s and early 80s, a five-some at the Park was not unusual. Back then, the course was not that crowded.)

Concentrate on Rich Flores

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. During that time I also had the pleasure of coaching the golf teams of Kaneland High School for nineteen seasons. The warm spring days were but a distant memory when Rich and I bumped into one another on a sunny afternoon at a high school golf tournament in Batavia.

His 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.”

golf lesson
Rich Flores with golf student at Mill Creek – Photo by Richard Ross

Our Reunion

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. They would regularly beat 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. He spent this time giving lessons and analyzing swings and putting strokes with various computer software programs (Rich was one of the first in Illinois to use the V1 Pro Digital Coaching System). He would then move outdoors to one of the local golf courses in the warmer months.

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.”

Career: Apprentice, Head Professional & Teacher

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. Rich 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!

Lifelong Dedication

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.

This analysis is not only of the golf club, but of 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, Rick, B.J, & Rich

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.  He now lives in Maine. 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. This is mostly because of the distance that separates us, and the personal obligations that have usurped our time. And I am ad to report that Rick is no longer with us.

Not long ago, I 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: https://www.facebook.com/friendsofrichflores.

The FriendsofRichFlores.org website itself is no longer active, but it is possible to donate to the cause. Any money raised will help pay for the cost of fighting the disease. I have been glad to see Rich Flores back on the course and in his teaching studio full time. There is always the proverbial line at his door, wanting his help, advice, and skills in order to improve their golf game.

three guys
Richard Ross, Don Timm & Rick Bell at the Rich Flores Golf Outing/Fundraiser – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Together Again – On a Golf Course

Fate brought us together again, on a golf course, appropriately. Well, at least three of us. B.J. couldn’t make it back from Maine. But the Friends of Rich Flores Golf Outing allowed us to rekindle a friendship that has become very special and very important to me. As a PGA Pro, Rich does the game proud. As a teacher, one would be hard put to find a better teacher. 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…

In 2019, Rich Flores was the recipient of the Illinois PGA Deacon Palmer Award.

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