Steve Flesch (AP Photo)
Posted: 5:35 p.m.
Steve Flesch talks pay-by-play and Brad Johansen talks play-by-play, but when they talk to each other many times it is via text.
Sometimes it is Johansen, the Bengals radio play-by-play man and Channel 12 sports anchor, asking after a round, "Can you make a putt?" Other times it is Flesch, Cincinnati's major player who still golfs out of Triple Crown, offering analysis from his seat about 10 rows below Johansen in Paul Brown Stadium after a touchdown for or against.
"Love the Bengals. Love the Reds. Loved them my whole life," Flesch says Wednesday, fresh off his practice round for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C.
He's won everywhere from Malaysia to Reno and had a rookie year like Corey Dillon and Frank Robinson when he was PGA Tour Rookie of the Year 11 years ago. But Flesch, 42, still lives just off the path at Triple Crown Country Club in Union, Ky., and lives for coming back home on Mondays.
"You're right. I've been everywhere, but I don't want to leave Cincinnati," Flesch says. "The people are great. It's home. They talk about the weather, but it's bad for maybe two months and if I have to I'll go some place for a week and play."
This Monday he's coming back with a plane load of friends for a tournament that won't give him any Fed Ex points but is a big score for the smattering of Greater Cincinnati charities that benefit the One City Foundation Johansen has adopted.
Johansen and Flesch first met in Johansen's segment on Channel 12 in which viewers usually challenge him on a particular shot. This time it was Johansen challenging Flesch that he could sink the big breaking 30-foot putt that Flesch hit to win his first of four tour titles in 2003 at the HP Classic of New Orleans.
"It took a few," Johansen says, "but I got it before he did."
Last year, while playing what has since been their casual brand of golf, Johansen and Flesch brainstormed about how they could take Johnansen's annual celebrity tournament to the black tees.
This is Brad and Colleen Johansen's fifth annual run and, really, how much more could it go?
The golf had already been believed to be the biggest fundraiser for One City, a coalition of ministry, volunteerism, social services, and business geared to helping the disadvantaged. One City started with 15 volunteers and now has about 2,000. Somewhere between five and 10 churches were on board at the beginning. Now there are 125. And the tournament has grown with it.
"This is going to be the year we go over $1 million," Johansen says. "We'd love to get more than $300,000 this year. To me the most important thing we can do is help the poor in our society. It's something I have a passion for. We have to be able to interact and have involvement at all levels."
The result of the brainstorming session is Monday's date at Triple Crown for the "One City Pro Am hosted by Brad Johansen and Steve Flesch" that may end up being the greatest single collection of pro golfing talent around here since Jack Nicklaus drove past on I-75 north to Columbus, Ohio.
"I've always wanted my friends to see where I live and why I don't want to leave Cincinnati," Flesch says. "This is a great opportunity for them to come in and help out what Brad is trying to do. He's got a lot going on. He's got a lot of kids and he announces a lot of things, but he manages to get this off the ground every year."
Johansen does most of it himself, bartering with companies and celebrities like a late night pitchman, but this year's agenda is slightly less challenging than the D-Day invasion.
He's got three separate private plane flights to ferry Flesch's friends from Congressional late Sunday afternoon so they can be here in time for the "Get in the Game Dinner and Auction" at the Cincinnati Sports Club.
"The way the schedule is so tight, you've got to make it as easy as possible for these guys," Flesch says. "A lot of them are leaving their families and then they have to make sure they get to Moline, Ill., for next week."
It couldn't be done without the sponsorship of Prasco Drugs, but Johansen also had to call in some very big chips this time to pull it off. And if Johansen did, what about Flesch?
Monday is pretty much a pro golfer's only day off and if it's not, then they usually get a pretty handsome appearance fee. Johansen doesn't want to get into it, but you can best believe a lot of the guys are taking a lesser number this Monday.
Take Kenny Perry. Yes, that Kenny Perry.
The hero of men with salt-and-pepper hair and relaxed fit jeans everywhere. The 48-year-old from Franklin, Ky., who at the moment is the hottest thing in golf next to Tiger Woods' ACL. Perry, who is sitting out this week, could expect a check of about $100,000 for one of these deals but is taking nothing close to that.
And really, Perry's only logistical request has been that they arrange his flight from Franklin around the church service he'll attend with his family.
"He's the most humble, self-deprecating guy you'd ever want to meet," Flesch says. "He's a super-intelligent guy and I could keep going with the clichés, but it's all true."
Clichés, apparently, also apply to Flesch, the fiery lefty who pounded his way out of mediocrity at Covington Catholic and the University of Kentucky before becoming one of the tour's more solid veterans during this past decade.
How about the '08 Masters, when he came into the final nine down two shots? He went into the drink on the 12th and ended up tied for fifth, but he made sure he was back here for another Monday despite the biggest disappointment of his career.
"It was a junior clinic in Burlington the next day," recalls Richard Skinner, long-time local radio talkmaster and of late a Cincinnati Enquirer sports writer. "It had to be tough, but he stood up, didn't miss it, and he gave a great clinic on swing tempo."
Flesch is admired enough by his peers that he's on the tour's Player Advisory Council and he's candid enough to rip course setups and policy if he sees fit. You've got to love a guy when asked by *Golf Magazine *why he's mellowed says, "I realized after many years of expending energy to show the emotion that it just wasn't worth it. It's exhausting getting mad. On the other side of the coin, I think that fire is what's driven me to my success. I can't stand losing. If you've never won anything, you don't know what you're missing."
So you figure his friends have to be pretty much the same way. They range from a pair of major winners in Todd Hamilton (the 2004 British Open) and Mark Brooks (the 1996 PGA in a sudden death over, of all people, Perry) to the pair of practice buddies in Paul Goydos and Kevin Sutherland.
"They're two of my closer friends out here," Flesch says. "Every Tuesday at 7 or 7:30 in the morning no matter where we are, we're teeing it up."
You get an idea that Goydos is as down to earth as Flesch by this answer he gave when Bob Costas asked if he's ever held a lead after 54 holes: "No, but I've only been out on tour for 16 years."
Also on the list for Monday are Jonathan Kaye, Will MacKenzie, Bo Van Pelt, Harrison Frazar, Carl Pettersson, John Mallinger, Jay Williamson and Kent Jones. In order to play with one of them, your group has to pay $8,000. But to just watch them starting at 8 a.m. is $15 with a visit to bradjohansengolf.com.
"It started out where Steve thought he could get a couple of guys," Johansen says. "They kept saying yes, so Steve kept asking around and we had it up to 14, but there was an injury."
Flesch is known to wear his heart on his golf bag during a competitive round, but Johansen suspects Monday will be like the day at Triple Crown he played with him, Reds announcer Chris Welsh, and the man helping him pull together the tournament, Joe Robertson.
How many pros would continue to play 18 when the back nine was closed because of a league? Flesch shrugged, so they went back to the first hole, changed the tees around and played nine more. When he finished with what Johansen calls "a very casual 65," somebody said something like it was too bad the back wasn't open so he could get the course record and Flesch said, "I'm not worried about the course record today."
He is, however, like your average Bengals fan and worried that quarterback Carson Palmer isn't going to get a ring by the time he's done.
"I like Carson Palmer. You'd have to say he's my favorite player. I just hope during his career he has chance to play on a Super Bowl winner. I'm a big fan of his talent and intellect," he says.
"I've heard about what they've done," says Flesch of the offseason moves. "I'm ignorant of how the pieces go together. I know they've added a couple of linemen and all that, but I have to go to the game to see how it translates and how it works out on the field. Hopefully it's going to work out."
Flesch was there for Palmer's lone playoff game, the one he finished 1-for-1 for 66 yards and a torn ACL.
"When Carson got hurt, it just made me sick," he says. "When he got carted off, it just sucked the wind out of the stadium. I'm just a big fan and I'm hoping they can put it all together."
But he doesn't know how many games he'll get to see from now on. There is a certain 10-year-old son who has picked up a certain game that involves clubs.
"I don't think he's going to want to give up too many nice Sundays in the fall," Flesch says.
But there is going to be a Monday around here that is pretty special.