Wednesday, October 22

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1

Fred Hawkins often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan. “I played a number of practice rounds with [Hogan],” Hawkins told me. “[H]e’d always ask me to come down to Fort Worth a couple of days early so he’d get a little competition [and] practice that way.” In the continuation of this series, you'll learn about Hawkins and his Hogan stories.

Fred Hawkins in 1959.
I MET FRED HAWKINS IN 2007 on the Champions Tour, where he and 15 or so other legends played in pro-am and other events. Hawkins played on the PGA Tour from 1947 to 1965. He won once, the Oklahoma City Open, and had 19 runner-up finishes. One of them was a second-place tie with Doug Ford in the 1958 Masters won by Arnold Palmer, the first of Palmer’s four green jackets. Hawkins finished fourth on the 1956 money list (earning about $25,000) and played on the 1957 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

I interviewed Hawkins in October of that year as part of my research for THE LONGEST SHOT. From my home in Virginia, I called him one evening at his home in Sebring, Florida. We had a lengthy conversation about a range of topics, including Ben Hogan.

* * *

“I started in 1947 and ended somewhere near the end of the summer of ‘65,” Hawkins said.

“I started the first tournament at Tam O”Shanter in Chicago. At the time at Tam O’Shanter, they had the men pros, the women pros, the amateurs—they had a huge field of contestants. I think it was sometime in June, right near the longest days. They had a huge crowd there. George S. May put it on and he had a lot to do in getting the purses on the tour. His idea was just to charge a dollar a person. I think he gave them free parking, so the course was crowded with people. But that’s a little different.

“Basically I played those years and only won two official tournaments.”

(The PGA Tour credits Hawkins with one official win.)

“I won four or five other nonofficial smaller tournaments. By two different counts, I had 27 second-place finishes and then the PGA had several of the fellows re-evaluate the records—some of the records had been lost—they had me at 19 second-place finishes. That’s still a lot of seconds for only winning twice.

“Although once or twice I had a lead and didn’t play well the last round and someone beat me, the rest of the time I had a little trouble getting started and finished with good rounds but someone always beat me. So a lot of things happened. I’ve always said I was lucky in life but not really lucky in golf.”

Hawkins came within a rimmed-out putt of being in an 18-hole playoff at the ‘58 Masters. He had four top-10 finishes at Augusta.

“I was tied for second [with Doug Ford] in the Masters in 1958 the first year Arnold Palmer won. And Doug had won the tournament the year before.

“It was the year that Arnold—there was a question about a ruling on his ball on the 12th hole. They first had him up for a 5. We played two or three holes. Doug and I thought we were leading, but Doug was one stroke ahead of me until we got to the 17th tee. Doug had to make one birdie to tie [Arnold], and I had to make two birdies to tie. I birdied 17 from about 10 feet, and [Doug] had a putt of about 6 or 7 feet and missed it. And then we both hit the green at 18. My putt kind of caught the edge of the hole and came out. That’s the history of the way things go.”

Hawkins’s other best finish in a major was a tie for sixth at the 1951 U.S. Open, where Ben Hogan won his third Open and famously said about Oakland Hills, “I’m glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees.”

Next time: Hawkins at the 1957 Ryder Cup and facing Hogan in an 18-hole playoff.

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