Wednesday, May 14

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 4

Shelley Mayfield told me, "I played a lot of golf with Ben Hogan ... maybe more than anyone else." In this series, I share Mayfield's memories of Hogan as a golfer and a person. Along the way, I'll tell you about Mayfield and his long and rewarding life in golf. Read INTRODUCTIONPart 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Jack Burke Jr.
ON TOUR, SHELLEY MAYFIELD OFTEN TRAVELED with Jack Burke Jr., another Texan and a Hall of Famer, and Lew Worsham, the 1947 U.S. Open champion.

“It was a very difficult thing in a way, because we traveled it by car,” Mayfield said. “And we did so much driving, like from Tucson to San Antonio. That’s got to be over 1,000 miles. You finish Sunday and you’re starting on Thursday. That’s at least a day and a half of travel.”

It got old fast for Mayfield, a family man who preferred home life to being on the road.

“I didn’t like the traveling part, living out of a suitcase, a new bed, a new hotel or motel every week. I liked coming home, putting my feet up, having a drink and playing with the kids.”

* * *

Travel was just one of many differences on tour in the 1950s. For example, in those earlier days, with few exceptions, caddies were local men who worked at the clubs where the pros showed up for tournaments.

“Sometimes the caddie was pretty good and sometimes he didn’t know anything,” Mayfield said. “I don’t ever recall one time in my life asking a caddie, ‘How does this putt break?’ Never.

“These caddies were just kind of locals. They were not professional people at all like they are now. Ask them about a club. I don’t know? It must be some kind of iron. I don’t think it’s a wood. Or, it’s a long way. You got no help there at all.”

With today’s caddies, exact yardages and more, that’s all changed, Mayfield offered. So have golf courses.

“The courses are in such better shape now than they were,” he said. “Because [in those days] the first thing that you looked at after you drove off the tee was how is the ball sitting. What kind of lie do you have? Is it kind of in a depression, or is it sitting nice on the fairway? Then you start making the judgment of the distance and the club. As you walk up, you’re working on the distance. You don’t have to think of anything like that at all anymore, which is all right. It’s the same for everybody. It just seems like it has taken away so much from the character of the game.”

* * *

Shelley Mayfield told me a travel tale that involved Sam Snead and Johnny Bulla, and the long, lonely stretch of highway between Tucson, Arizona, and San Antonio, Texas.

“It was the Tucson Open followed by the San Antonio Open, years ago,” Mayfield said. “It was about a thousand mile run, and you left usually immediately after your round in Tucson and got a hunk of the driving done so you could get there the next day. You drove on Sunday night.

“Johnny Bulla and Sam Snead were traveling together in the same car, and I think Johnny Bulla was driving and Sam said, ‘I’m tired. I’m going to go in the back seat and go to sleep.’ Each one would drive 300 miles, stop and fill up the gas, and then let the other one drive 300 miles. That’s usually what happened.

“So Johnny Bulla drove the first 300 miles. And he was getting worried the tank was low, and he’s out there in west Texas. Man, there’s not many gas stations or towns there. He passed this station-looking-thing on the road, looked at it and it looked like there was one little dim light in it. He’d almost gone by it, so he made a u-turn and circled back in there. And sure enough, this guy was just closing the station up. He stopped him, and he said he needed the tank full of gas, and the guy was happy to oblige him for it.

“He filled up his gas, and woke up Sam, and said, ‘Sam, I’ve got you filled up with gas, and now you get out of the back seat and get behind the wheel and I’ll go back in the back seat.’ Unbeknownst to Sam, he’d made a u-turn, and three hours later the next lights he saw were Tucson, Arizona. You can imagine what that brought on.

“Can you believe that? Six hundred miles out of the way.”

Mayfield chuckled.

“It’s supposedly a true story.”

Still to come: More insights on Ben Hogan, the man, and playing the tour.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan (Introduction)
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 3


John said...

Neil--your next book should be about the early tour and how difficult it was to be a golf professional. We have Al Barkow's Golf's Golden Grind, which is a wonderful history, but we could use more stories from the past.

The Armchair Golfer said...

That would be a fun story to write.