Tuesday, May 27

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield (Conclusion)

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, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

BEN HOGAN WAS A PROUD MAN who as the years went by sometimes hid a weakness.

“He absolutely loved quail hunting,” Shelley Mayfield said. “He was a good shot, too. As he aged a little bit, I think it was his right eye where he couldn’t see well enough.”

(Actually, it was Hogan’s left eye that was impaired from a near-fatal car accident in February 1949.)

“He had to have a chauffeur. As a matter of fact, if he was invited out at night—I’d invited him a time or so. ‘Come on out.’

“I’d bought a little farm north of Dallas. I’d really moved out there because I liked the country life. He’d keep putting me off.

“I said, ‘Why the heck don’t you come and have dinner with us sometime? I want you to come see my farm.’

“And he said, ‘Alright, I’m going to tell you, but I don’t want you to tell anybody else. You understand?’

“I said, ‘Sure.’

“He said, ‘I’m losing my sight in my [left] eye. If I go out there, I’d have to get a chauffeur. Then word would start getting around and things like that. I don’t want to do that.’

“I said, ‘OK. I won’t bother you any more with it.’”

* * *

Seldom seen by the public, there was a fun-loving side to Ben Hogan. Jimmy Demaret, an accomplished tour player who often partnered with Hogan, was a favorite companion.

“He loved Demaret,” Mayfield said. “For instance, when we went on this quail hunt, he said, ‘Let’s call Demaret and see if he can come join us. He’s a chuckle every minute or so.’ He loved a good joke and to have a good time.

“He loved to have a few drinks. I’m sure you heard he got to where he drank an awful lot. He did. But I think the reason he did was that he didn’t like to take pills. And he was in a lot of pain a lot of times, his shoulder and his knee. He did that for pain, I think.

“He’d go to work at 10 o’clock in the morning at the factory in Fort Worth and get off at 12, go to Shady Oaks and order a martini in a big glass.”

This was after the regular game every other week had ended, Mayfield said.

“It was later on, as he got older. When your bones start hurting you, they hurt much worse later on in life. I’m sure that’s the reason he got to drinking as much as he did.

“But he didn’t like pills. He told me once, ‘You know, those pills will do about as much harm as they will good.’ I’m sure he was right.”

* * *

Shelley Mayfield recalled why he decided to leave the PGA Tour and settle into life as a club pro, eventually taking the job at Brook Hollow in Dallas and beginning a long friendship with Ben Hogan.

“In ’56, I won the Baton Rouge. And I came close in a lot of others. I never had the thinking in my mind like Tiger Woods, or Jack Nicklaus, or Ben Hogan. [Their mindset was] ‘Every tournament I enter I’m going to win.’ I just thought, man, I want to beat these guys, I know I can beat these guys, and all I want to do is really prove that I can.

“I was making good money. I didn’t have any worries there. It was more money than I ever made. But I didn’t have the desire to win every tournament. Some people do, like the real champions do.

“When Claude Harmon called me and told me about the club at Meadowbrook, I was getting along in age, 32 or 33 years old, and my wife was just about the same age. I know the thought was in her mind, my mind, about time to settle down and raise a family. And I loved club work. I really did. I was very, very fortunate to be associated with some really fine people at some fine clubs, which I’m most appreciative of.

“I was making good money out on the tour, probably was only going to get better because I won a tournament a year after I left. But I just felt like it was time to settle down and start a family. I like kids anyway, and enjoyed having them and raising them. I didn’t have that many. Only had two daughters, but they turned out to be wonderful daughters.”

* * * 

Ben Hogan helped Shelley Mayfield with his induction in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

“He was very instrumental,” Mayfield said. “He wrote a wonderful letter in my favor for me to be accepted, which I appreciated very much. I just thought he was a wonderful man.

“A lot of people didn’t like him. The ‘Wee Ice Man’—he was that—because it was simply his nature that if he was bothered by anybody he’d lose his concentration on the golf course.”

Mayfield died on March 22, 2010. The USGA wrote, “Mayfield was widely respected as a consummate gentleman who was modest about his many achievements.”

The Playing With Hogan series will continue with other players. Stay tuned.

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
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 4
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 5

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