In the early 1980s, Les Fleisher and his wife, Jill, would have bet a lot of money that they would never fall in love with the State of Maine.
However, his law school roommate and best friend, David Glaser, and his family moved to Portland, so the Fleishers decided they needed to visit the Pinetree State to see what the attraction was. Fleisher, who is emcee of a golf radio show (“Tee Time”) in Southern Pines, North Carolina (adjacent to Pinehurst), has been coming to Maine during the summers ever since then. And the Fleishers even lived in Cape Elizabeth for three years, before they came to the conclusion that Maine winters and Jill’s health were not compatible.
Still, Maine and its golf have been an important part of Les Fleisher’s life for many years. With the radio show in Pinehurst on vacation, Fleisher plays as a member at Purpoodock as the family spends the summer in Scarborough. He has been all around Maine sampling its golf courses, and recently played in this area at Fairlawn and Poland Spring.
In addition, Fleisher is a member of the Maine State Golf Association scholarship selection committee and is a regular contributor to the scholarship fund. In 2014, Fleisher was the presenter of his good friend Alan Bouchard, when he was inducted into the Maine Golf Hall of Fame. So, Fleisher is not just a tourist when in Maine. He contributes to “Vacationland.”
Because of the radio show, and the fact that he is the older brother of retired PGA Tour pro Bruce Fleisher (one PGA Tour championship, 18 Champions Tour titles, 35 overall professional tournament crowns), Les has a million golf stories, one of which is about Bruce and him playing golf with Jack Nicklaus. Bruce set that up, and a disbelieving Les went along with it out of curiosity, doubting his brother could pull it off. Bruce not only came through, but they wound up playing 27 holes with the “Golden Bear.” And Fleisher came away with a memento — an autographed $20 bill which he won from Nicklaus, who gave him six shots.
Fleisher has had Maine folks on his radio show. A few years back, Nancy Storey, executive director of the MSGA, was at a conference in Pinehurst, so Fleisher invited her to be a guest. They talked some about Maine golf, and about national and international golf subjects. Storey came away from that show being impressed with “the depth of golf knowledge of Fleisher and his guests.”
Randy Hodsdon, MSGA tournament director, likes “Tee Time” so much that he tapes the shows.
In real life, meaning non-radio life, Fleisher is a commercial real estate salesman, but golf clearly is his passion.
When asked about the state of golf, he replied: “They claim 25 million people in the U.S. play golf, but they are counting people who go to golf ranges. That’s not playing golf. The honest number is more like eight million. The game is not going away, but it needs contraction. We have too many golf courses. That’s not pessimism; it is being realistic.”
When asked about golf in Maine, which he loves dearly, he said he knows of only one golfer whose game might have been good enough to make the PGA Tour.
“The best player I have seen in Maine is Jimmy Veno,” Fleisher said. Veno was Maine Open champion in 1962 and 1965 and runner-up in 1969.
Multiple Maine Amateur champion Mark Plummer? “He could not have made it as a pro,” Fleisher said. No disrespect was meant to Plummer.
When will the Fleishers leave Maine for Pinehurst?
“When I cannot find my golf ball because of the leaves,” he said.
That means he is sort of a snowbird, but he says Pinehurst does have four seasons, and there are days when it is too cold to play golf there, but he and Jill enjoy the climate balance.
And, like many folks, they love the seasonal changes.
No one from Maine made it to the U.S. Amateur during a qualifier held July 23 at The Ledges. At least not initially.
Jack Wyman of Portland tied for second (71-70—141), but lost on the first playoff hole. He became the first alternate for the U.S. Amateur, which will be Aug. 13-19 in California at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. Later in the week, though, Wyman was added to the field when someone somewhere in the country withdrew from the U.S. Amateur.
Husson University golfer Gavin Dugas of Pittsfield tied for fifth (70-73—143). No other Maine players were close in a field of 74.
Wyman will join Minot’s Will Kannegieser as the only players from Maine in the U.S. Amateur. Kannegieser was the medalist at a qualifier in Williamstown, Massachusetts, earlier this month.
The Maine State Golf Association tournament schedule is active as we go from July to August. The Women’s Senior Amateur Championship is July 31 at Springbrook, and the Maine Junior is July 31-Aug. 1 at Brunswick. There is a Women’s Weekly event July 31 at Toddy Brook, a Senior Tour event Aug. 2 at Lake Kezar, and the Weekend Tour will play Aug. 3-4 at Gorham.