FRC Lands Sports Greats
Jerry West, Nick Faldo fling flies with Curtis Fleming
Curtis Fleming felt honored hosting NBA legend Jerry West on a fishing trip. (Courtesy FRC)
Business, it’s been said, gets done on the golf course. Especially show business.
Curtis Fleming hooked up with several of his big-name guests for this season’s “Fly Rod Chronicles” at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic in Lewisburg, W.Va. Lining up his back casts, along with some good fortune, is how Fleming came to fish with the likes of Jerry West and Sir Nick Faldo.
Fleming and West sit down for a chat.
FRC already had a fishing date with current West Virginia Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins, and he offered a great suggestion to Fleming then helped him secure one of the state’s brightest lights.
“You should get Jerry West on the show,” Fleming recalls Huggins saying. “I said, ‘That would be awesome. How do we do that?’”
The third winningest active NCAA Division I coach made a call to West’s son Jonnie, who played for him at WVU. Huggins reported good news back to Fleming, that West would meet him at the golf tournament. Fleming was surprised a bit that the NBA Hall of Famer, the one man in the state who could become governor without campaigning, knew a lot about him.
“ ‘I know you. I watch your show on the Outdoor Channel. I like it. You do a really great job,’” Fleming said West told him.
Fleming admits that since West Virginia is the show’s main sponsor, West would have a natural interest. They lined up a shoot in their home state and got into some really good rainbows, but Fleming quickly learned what made West a 14-time All-Star and a successful coach and executive in the NBA.
“He grew up like a lot of us, poor, his dad was a coal miner,” Fleming said. “His way out was through basketball. Jerry went on to the West Virginia Mountaineers on a scholarship. From there, he was a legend in the NBA and everything else.
“He loves the outdoors. He's mainly a baitcaster – fly fishing is not his choice -- but he’s a huge turkey hunter and just loves the outdoors. He comes back here to mainly hunt and fish. He said that’s his relaxation. But what I learned from him was the competitiveness came out very quick.”
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A friendly day of fishing and picking West’s brain turned into a fishoff, and West, 75, wasn’t about to back down to the fly fishing expert even if he was on his turf.
“The competitor came out in him. He said, ‘You’re doing Enron math,’ It just became real comical. It was neat to see that out of him,” Fleming said. “We’re joking around and I’m doing Enron math.
“I pour it on him and start counting by the 10s. ‘Jerry, I’m at 30.’ He’s done and sitting in the Trout Tundra (FRC’s wrapped truck). Back to him. Back to me. ‘That’s 40. Four 0. And that got him all stirred up.”
Fleming said West did enjoy the outing, and that he really cherishes his home state and being able to come back.
Golfing great Sir Nick Faldo was also a fan, and it got him a stint on FRC, or is that the other way around. (Courtesy Opengolf.es)
“It was neat for me, because he’s such a big figure in the state,” Fleming said. “I was a little nervous being around him at first.”
The festivities surrounding the Greenbrier Classic around the Fourth of July at Americas Resort are huge, including concerts this year by Jimmy Buffet and Maroon 5. Last year, FRC had a date to take Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin fishing, but he had a surprise for them out near the Trout Tundra.
“He said, ‘There’s a fan out here wanting to meet you,’” Fleming said. “Sir Nick Faldo, the golfer, was out there. He’s like, ‘Hey mate, I love your show.’”
Faldo, who won three Masters and three Open Championships among his 40 golf victories, is now an on-air golf analyst who also fancies fly fishing.
“Three weeks later I get a text and don’t know this number,” said Fleming, who called. “It’s Nick, mate. Let’s go fishing.’ So we did a show with Sir Nick Faldo as well. He is a huge fly fishermen. He brought his private jet and away we went. Fly fishing definitely attracts a lot of people from the celebrity end.”