Those who knew Jim Flick best are in lockstep when summing up the man. He was, they all say, a better person than he was a teacher. And he was one of the best teachers in the history of the game.
Flick, who passed away on Monday at age 82 after battling pancreatic cancer, was a legend in the world of golf instruction, a man who could have a rank beginner getting shots airborne in a matter of minutes, and help the greatest players in the game just as quickly.
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And he would treat both exactly the same.
“I wish I had his demeanor and his attitude and style,” said Bob Toski, who taught alongside Flick for many years in the Golf Digest Schools. The two also co-authored the book “How to Become a Complete Golfer.”
“He was always the same, whether he was teaching the beginner, the middle handicapper or the tour player,” Toski said. “He was very polished and consistent in the way he communicated with people. If you went through the list of people who went to his schools, you would get accolades like you wouldn’t believe. He influenced people of all ages, abilities, styles and means.”
Long before tour ranges filled up with celebrity instructors, Flick was teaching the best with a smile and an infectious optimism.
“He was one of the closest guys to me as I was growing up, one of my dad’s great friends,” said Davis Love III. “I grew up with the Flick, (Jack) Lumpkin, my dad and (Peter) Kostis as my teachers. I called him Mr. Flick and he called me ‘Coach’ as he did so many of his students. He’d say, ‘You’re sure hitting it good, Coach.’
“I remember so many thousands of people that went through the schools that fell in love with him. Not only did the people in those schools get great instruction – and I’ll throw my dad in that category as well – people fell in love with the game because those guys were so nice and made it so much fun. They inspired people, not just to hit golf balls and work on their games, but to be golfers.”
Brandel Chamblee also found Flick to be a compassionate and caring teacher who cared more for his students than he did for himself.
“As I think back on the time I spent with him, it occurs to me that he had embodied what it means when one hears of a teacher's love,” Chamblee said. “He loved his students and put their needs above any desire for recognition. He loved golf and he loved to talk golf, but he did so with empathy for the student and humility that suggested that as he was teaching he was also being taught. ... He taught for all the right reasons and in all the right ways.”
His was a simple, old-school methodology that applied to everyone.
“He was the modern ‘Swing the Clubhead’ teacher, today’s version of Earnest Jones,” Toski said. “He believed that you had to feel the clubhead through the hands, and that the big muscles were responsive to the little muscles. He called the golf club ‘an instrument,’ and said it was like playing the violin. He’d say, ‘If you play good, you get some sweet music.’”
Perhaps his most famous student was also the greatest golfer of all time.
“I’ve known Jim Flick since I was a teenager, when Jim was a pro at Losantiville Country Club in Cincinnati.” Jack Nicklaus said. “I am sure I probably ran across Jim prior to this particular meeting, but I really became aware of Jim when he was the pro there and when Bob Keppler (Ohio State coach) and I went down to play the US Pro-Am when I was, I guess, a junior in college.
“I got to know Jim a little bit there. I knew he was a very nice guy, but I didn’t really have much involvement with Jim through the years until he began to come over to Frenchman’s Creek in Jupiter (Florida) and watch Jack Grout and me work. He would sit behind Jack Grout and me while Mr. Grout was teaching. He would sit back there for hours, day after day. So, there isn’t anybody who watched more of Mr. Grout teaching me than Jim Flick.
“When Jack passed away in 1989, I was looking for somebody to help me. I had gone to a couple of guys and I was sort of struggling to find the right person. I had just turned 50 years old and I was out at The Tradition – my first tournament and major as a senior," Nicklaus continued. "Jim just happened to be walking around. I think we were walking down the 18th fairway, and he had watched most of the last nine holes, so I turned to him and said, ‘Well, Jim what do you see? You’ve seen me enough. You’ve seen Jack Grout and how he taught me.’ Jim said, ‘Well, I don’t see Jack Nicklaus.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ So, we went to the practice tee and he showed me what he meant.
“Through a variety of things Jim did and worked on, I won that golf tournament. I had not played very well up to that point, but did that week, thanks to Jim. He has been my teacher of note ever since.
“More important, for decades Jim has been a good friend to me, on and off the golf course. He has not only touched my life and career, but he has influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years.”
Davis Love thought of him as more than an instructor. He was one of the adults that make a difference in a young man’s life, a positive influence that makes a mark at just the right time.
“You wanted to be like Jim Flick,” Love said. “He was always happy, always smiling, and had such a positive attitude. I was lucky to grow up around guys like that.”
But it was Toski who summed up his old friend’s personality the best.
“If Byron Nelson was golf’s great gentleman, Jim Flick was golf’s gentleman instructor,” Toski said. “They were cut from the same cloth.”
Jim Flick is survived by his wife Geri and their five children.