Thursday, December 4

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 5

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. Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
BEN HOGAN DIDN'T LIKE TO LOSE, even in practice, but it happened fairly often in his games with Fred Hawkins.

“We used to play these Nassaus,” Hawkins said. “As I said, [Hogan] wasn’t really bearing down like he was in a tournament. He was trying hard, but he’s working on changes that we all make to see if it was going to work in the tournament for him.

 “I probably beat him as much as he beat me in the practice rounds. But he had a number of things that I thought were unusual.

“He would come in and say, ‘How did we come out?’

“I’d say, ‘Don’t give me that stuff. You know damn well how we came out.’

“One of his favorite sayings was ‘What did you shoot—50?’

“‘What? 50!’ I’d say. ‘I had 66.’

“[Hogan would say], ‘Anybody make that many putts ought to be in the 50s.’

 “It burned him up.”

* * *

Fred Hawkins told me about a practice round during which he and Billy Casper opposed Ben Hogan and Dow Finsterwald prior to the Goodall Palm Beach Round Robin at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York.

“Hogan was playing perfect,” Hawkins said. “Casper and I were not hitting the ball good. We were all over the place but we’re making every putt.”

The four men reached the par-4 15th hole.

“Hogan knocked his way down in the fairway. One of us went right, the other left. Then we criscrossed, neither one of us on the green.”

Hogan knocked his approach shot onto the green 25 feet from the hole. He’s laying two. Meanwhile, Hawkins and Casper are hitting their third shots from off the green.

“We pitched on not very well, both just outside of [Hogan].”

Hawkins and Casper were both putting for par. They went before Hogan.

“We both made it,” Hawkins said, “and he three-putted.”

Hogan was steaming.

“When we were going to the next tee, he said, ‘You guys ever lose that putting stroke I’ll be buying a hot dog from you.’”

As Hawkins remembered it, he and Casper both shot 65 or 66. Hogan had a 70. Finsterwald was around in 71.

“[Hogan] was livid,” Hawkins said. “As far as his long game was, he was playing beautiful, but he didn’t putt well at all.”

Next time: Ben Hogan, tough and unknowable.

Other Installments:

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