As an Army veteran, famed golf instructor Jim Flick was curious back in 2008 when he first saw combat-injured troops with prosthetics at The Kingdom at TaylorMade Golf.
The soldiers had just completed eight weeks of lessons as part of Operation Game On, a golf rehabilitation program founded by Tony Perez that provides lessons, specially fitted clubs, reduced green fees and playing opportunities for wounded soldiers.
While the warriors waited at the Carlsbad facility to be fitted for their new equipment, Flick walked over and introduced himself.
“He went over to the guys, shook their hands and thanked them for their service,” said Perez. “He had tears in his eyes.
“He said he liked what I was doing,” Perez added. “He said they were his heroes, too, and anytime they came over he’d be there to help.”
True to his word, whenever Perez brought soldiers to The Kingdom, Flick spent three hours working with them.
“He never charged a dime,” Perez said. “He just wanted to be with the troops. We started with four, then eight, then 10 and 12. He was always there.”
Flick became a regular at Morgan Run Club & Resort for the Operation Game On Golf Classic. He was there Aug. 13 for the program’s fifth annual fundraiser, good-naturedly offering advice during a putting demonstration to Perez’s son Pat, a professional golfer.
Less than three months later, on Nov. 5, Flick passed away at his Carlsbad home, following a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
“I was shocked,” Tony Perez said. “I still can’t get over it. I think about him all the time. What a loss for the golf world.
“He gave so much,” Perez said. “He loved our troops and would do anything for them.”
“His welcoming focus on each individual he came into contact with in our program was so very memorable,” retired Chief Petty Officer Daniel Peabody said. “He made each of us, despite our ability or disability, feel like royalty.“I personally enjoyed every minute of his time because I knew how valuable it was on the open market and despite that, he readily gave it to us so freely and without hesitation,” Peabody added.
Army veteran K.C. Mitchell described Flick as “a really down-to-earth, overall great man.”
“He called me Long-ball Mitchell,” he said. “And he had a nickname for my wife, who was in the Wives of Warriors program. He called her Little Dynamite. The name still sticks.
“I saw him three weeks before (he passed away),” Mitchell said. “He looked great. He spent 45 minutes with me in a one-on-one session. That’s an experience of a lifetime I’ll always have and can tell stories about.”
“He was always there, scheduled and ready to teach us how to swing or grip the club,” recalled Marine Sgt. Charlie Linville.
“He always made us feel comfortable, sharing his wisdom and always joking,” Linville said.
“He always made them laugh,” Perez said. “He was so quick witted. He was the Bob Hope of golf.”
Born in Bedford, Ind., on Nov. 17, 1929, Flick began playing golf when he was 10. During his sophomore year at Wake Forest University in North Carolina he and Arnold Palmer were roommates for a semester.
He turned pro in 1952 but eventually discovered his real passion was teaching the sport.
During his 50-plus years as an instructor he taught the game in 23 countries, operated the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools and the Jim Flick Premier School and served as a lead instructor for the ESPN Golf Schools.
Flick was PGA Teacher of the Year in 1988 and a 2011 inductee into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.
Golf World magazine named him one of the top 10 teachers of the 20th century. Since 2006, he served as the ambassador for TaylorMade Golf. Flick also wrote five books on the sport.
“Knowing this man’s history as not only an icon in the sport, but of his amazing work ethic and grueling schedule, it was just an inspiration to be given his undivided attention each time we were scheduled to meet,” said Peabody, who taught golf before being mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I had been teaching golf for years, but each time I was around him, I found a new, more reasonable way to convey even the simplest lesson,” he said. “Whether it was the strength of someone’s grip or the mental aspect of putting, he was so adept at making it sound so simple that you just had to chuckle and hit your palm to your forehead afterward.
“He will be sorely missed, but I, for one, will be able to pass a little bit of Jim along in my career as an adaptive golf teaching professional,” Peabody said. “I already utilize many of his analogies and techniques successfully. I thank him daily for the gift.”