The check for $430,000 was nice. So was finally being able to remove the label as a player who was good, but not quite good enough to win a major championship.
But for Bruce Fleisher, the best parts of winning the U.S. Senior Open a month ago were a bit simpler.
A phone call from Jack Nickalus. Personal letters from Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Well-wishes from Johnny Miller and Raymond Floyd.
All bore similar messages: Great playing. I'm proud of you. Welcome to the club.
"To get their acknowledgement, their praise - that to me is so much more special than almost winning itself," Fleisher said.
It certainly was a long time coming.
With his one-stroke victory at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass., Fleisher, at the age of 52, finally fulfilled prophecies of greatness that had followed him since he won the U.S. Amateur in 1968.
But the feeling of that achievement?
"It didn't last long enough," he said.
Fleisher will be seeking his fourth title of the year this weekend in the State Farm Senior Classic at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley, which begins today.
A one-time winner in 21 years on the PGA Tour, he has experienced a personal renaissance since joining the Senior PGA Tour in 1999.
The third man to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Open (joining Nickalus and Palmer), Fleisher has captured 14 Senior titles, earning a total of $6,648,174, which places him 13th on the Tour's career money list.
He's the leading money-winner this year with $1,758,492 in 20 events, but it was his Open win that finally gave him some peace of mind.
"It certainly got the monkey off my back," he said.
Fleisher's victory was no surprise to his peers.
"Bruce has had a wonderful career out here on the Senior Tour, certainly significantly better than he had on the regular tour," said Tom Kite, who exorcised some of his own major championship demons with a U.S. Open title in 1992. "You have to admire that. "And I think it was only a question of time before he did win a major championship. Any time you go a while and you don't win, and then you finally win one, there's a sense of relief and you're glad to get that behind you."
Fleisher seemed destined for majors galore in the professional ranks after winning a national collegiate title at Miami Dade Junior College and capturing the U.S. Amateur at 19.
With that sudden notoriety, however, came attention - and pressure.
"All of the sudden, you're pegged as the next Jack Nickalus, the Joe Namath of golf," Fleisher said. "From that day on, I put a lot of pressure on myself."
Fleisher's career sputtered when he joined the PGA Tour in 1972, and he never achieved the success that many had anticipated.
But Fleisher doesn't blame the weighty expectations for turning him into a career journeyman.
"I think a lot of it was I didn't go about it correctly," he said. "I never really had a mentor, so to speak, to stand behind me, to push me or teach me. I was basically self-taught. Even today I don't work with anybody. I do it myself. Most of these guys have their own teachers, their own sports psychologist."
And when Fleisher did seek outside help, he found that his game faltered even more.
"It went from bad to worse," he said.
By 1984, Fleisher had enough.
He worked as a club pro in Miami for the next seven years, spending time with his daughter Jessica, now 21, and wife Wendy, who had suffered through illnesses after Jessica was born.
Yearning for competitive golf brought him back to the PGA Tour, and he picked up his lone title at the New England Classic in 1991. But the real triumphs would not come for Fleisher until he joined the Senior Tour.
"He works out a lot, and he has worked on his mental side of the game," Bob Murphy said. "Now has the confidence to know that he can win every time he tees it up, no matter where it is or how tough it is or what it is, be it a major or a tournament in Baltimore."
That may be. But for Fleisher, even with a major under his belt, the pressure is here to stay. "I would like to come out here one week, and really just not care," he said. "Let all my inhibitions go.
"Take off my shirt. I don't know, whatever it takes. Play barefoot. I would just love to come out here one week, and if I shoot 80, so be it. You know what? I'm human. But I have a hard time letting that happen."