The Flem Cup is a remarkable true story revolving around an intensely competitive trans-Atlantic golf match spanning five years between amateur teams from the US and England that grew out of a great friendship and love of golf I shared with my friend and business partner, Ian Jennings.
Ian was undoubtedly the most extraordinarily social man I ever knew. Beneath his veneer of a prototypical stylish English gentlemen lay a man of great wit whose very existence revolved around one thing – laughter. He lived to spend time with loved ones, doing things he – and they – loved (golfing, skiing, boating, etc.), all the while having a great laugh. Whatever the occasion or venue, he would effortlessly deliver jokes and stories with style and flair, casting a wide net of friendship wherever he went and whether by luck or design, I counted myself lucky to be his close friend.
Starting in 1993, and for the better part of a decade, the limited time I spent with Ian was consumed by great golf, lots of beer and laughter and, when absolutely necessary, a few business matters. Life was good and the future seemed bright and endless.
Then, in March of 2001, thanks to some considerable luck and a beer-fueled skirmish late one night in the Rave Cave of the Angel Hotel in Spinkhill, England, everything changed. A quiet suggestion from Ian’s best friend, Smokin’ Joe Brook, somehow penetrated our beer-addled brains and when the smoke cleared, our ordinary, run-of-the-mill annual golf trip had been transformed into what would prove to be an extraordinary England vs. U.S. golf match modeled after the Ryder Cup (although we added a few very interesting modifications).
The inaugural match in November of 2001 proved to be everything we’d hoped and more as intensely competitive golf matches collided head-on with hilarious off-course antics, resulting in a week none of us would ever forget. One of the stars of that first year was a whimsical website I created for the express purpose of reporting news concerning Cup events – FlemCup.com. After all, we had dozens of followers in the States and an entire village in England. Before long (the second article?), subject matter began to expand to include articles laced with rumor, innuendo, hyperbole and, in some cases, pure imagination. Eventually, when Team U.S.’s backs were planted squarely against the wall, the site would cross the line into the realm of becoming a propaganda tool, one with hundreds of believing followers.
Sadly, within months of that first year, the seemingly bright and endless future would come crashing down when Ian was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and, at age 45, given 1-5 years to live. What began as a story of competitive golf and great friendship was momentarily transformed into one of trying to understand and cope with tragic, inexplicable loss – but only temporarily. After all, the disease was dormant and for the next 3 years, Ian’s good health – and the Cup – would continue, each year marked by incredible golf matches, renewed friendships and riotous laughs. Things seemed almost normal as the dismal prognosis receded from our minds.
As 2004 turned to 2005, though, the cancer was awakening from its slumber and once again we faced an inexplicable tragedy, this time at a slow but steady walk. Through it all, God’s grace was at work, even for two seemingly hopeless men like Ian and me, men who’d given scant thought to anything more than having fun and enjoying life, and what would transpire over the next 11 months would not only make 2005 the most amazing Flem Cup year of all but would also change our lives – Ian’s and mine – forever.