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Len Ziehm On Golf

Beyond the Fairways: Rich Flores’ road to recovery

Rich Flores wanted to be a touring golf pro, and was –for awhile. He even played in a couple PGA Tour events in the early 1980s.

Flores’ calling, though, proved to be in teaching the game. He did that very well as director of instruction at both Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles and Mill Creek in Geneva. Flores grew up in the St. Charles-Batavia-Geneva area, played on the high school team at St. Charles and — after a stint in the military (where he played on the Fort Bragg golf team in North Carolina) and a fling on the mini-tours he settled into teaching. He was one of the first pros to use the V1 Pro Digital Coaching System, having incorporated that into his lessons 12 years ago.

While he taught players of all ages and abilities, Flores especially enjoyed working with youth, and the high school teams at St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia as well as the women’s team at Northern Illinois University have all benefitted from his knowledge of the golf swing.

Unfortunately, Flores got a bad break this year. He was diagnosed with Primary Amyloidosis. It’s not considered cancer, but it’s similar — and it is very serious. Suggested treatments include chemotherapy, which is also used to treat cancer patients.

Flores has been battling this usual disease for the past few months. That included a 33-day hospital stay and during the healing process his weight dropped from 168 to 138 pounds. Not surprisingly, his treatments were expensive — a fact that was readily apparent to his many friends and family members.

Flores’ brother-in-law, Tom Ryan of Batavia, and Richard Ross, a long-time close friend, led the efforts to do something to help. They organized a July 25 golf outing in Flores’ honor, and it was unbelievably successful. It was supposed to be held just at Pheasant Run, but the resort couldn’t accommodate all who wanted to participate. Mill Creek was pressed into service as well. Over 290 participated in the outings and over 550 attended the dinner afterwards.

“I don’t think anybody expected half that number — especially on a Monday night,’’ said Ross.

Ross and Ryan organized the outing and dinner after Ross and his wife, Yvonne, created a website that informed others of Flores’ situation. Their efforts led to such an extraordinary turnout.

“It was amazing,’’ said Ross. “Every time we talked to someone, they’d give us a referral. There was no one who didn’t know Rich. He’s a fighter.’’

That outpouring of support brought tears to the eyes of Dennis Johnsen, the long-time head pro at Pheasant Run. Now in charge at Pine Meadow in Mundelein, Johnsen worked with Flores at Pottawatomie course in St. Charles when he was a youngster. Later Johnsen hired him during his 25-year stint in charge at Pheasant Run.

“Rich ended up wanting to teach, and he specialized with kids,’’ said Johnsen. “Everybody loves the guy. I knew he was doing well and giving lots of lessons.’’
So, Johnsen was understandably one of the first to learn of Flores’ illness and was immediately willing to participate in the outing. He wasn’t ready for the outpouring of support for Flores, though.

“What hit me was the amount of people he has impacted,’’ said Johnsen. “It hit me about what an impact a PGA professional can have on a community. It’s huge. This is what a PGA professional is. A lot of guys do this (teaching), but don’t realized it.’’

The much-larger-than-expected outing raised about $130,000 to help cover Flores’ treatment costs, and others outside of golf have pitched in on that end as well. Flores reflected on the success of the outing on his website blog.

“My wife and I still cannot get over the awesome event,’’ he said. “My goal is to play nine holes of golf, carrying my bag, by the end of the summer.’’

Flores had some good news to report in his latest post. His weight is up to 143 pounds and results from a bone marrow biopsy showed no cancer cells.

“That means it’s in remission, and I’m good to go for awhile,’’ he reported. Flores said he’s been hitting some chip shots and is ready to resume his golf lessons, and Ross said Flores has been seen mowing his lawn.

So, while things are looking up, Flores is still battling his medical issues and Ross said his hospital and doctor bills will run close to $1 million. Those who want to keep up with Flores’ progress and help out his cause can do so by checking the website, www.FriendsofRichFlores.org.

Category: Features