Tuesday, January 20

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins (Conclusion)

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, Part 4 and Part 5.

Fred Hawkins and Ben Hogan
at Colonial in 1959.
BEN HOGAN WAS TOUGH AND UNKNOWABLE. That’s the legend, part of the mystique.

“[Jimmy] Demaret probably knew him better than any of us,” Fred Hawkins said, “but I probably knew him as well as anybody outside of Demaret. But nobody ever knew him.

“I’ve always said he was the hardest man that I have ever known. If he told you he wasn’t going to cross street, there was nothing in the world to make him cross the street. At times he could be very gracious, he could speak well and organize his thoughts. Other times, he’d go right by you. He was never really nasty to anybody that I know of. He wasn’t that way. He was just uncommunicative. He stayed in his own little world.”

Hawkins offered an example of Hogan’s stubbornness, the legend’s treatment of rising star Gary Player.

“I used to argue with him about Gary Player,” Hawkins said. “Finished second to Tommy Bolt in the U.S. Open in 1958 at Tulsa. Gary, at that time, … had just come over [from South Africa], and Hogan knew how he played.

“Gary wasn’t signed with [a golf equipment company] at that time. Hogan talked to him because Gary was a big Hogan fan. He tried to pattern his own game after [Hogan] as so many people did. He asked Player to not sign with anybody else until he talked to him. Gary said he would do that.”

A long time went by, according to Hawkins. Months, maybe an entire year. Player eventually signed with First Flight.

“Gary said he tried to call Ben three or four times and couldn’t get him on the phone so he went ahead and signed,” Hawkins said. “But Hogan would never forgive him.

“I used to tell [Hogan], ‘God, how can you do that?’

“‘I don’t’ care,’ Hogan said. ‘He gave me his word he’d talk to me first and he didn’t do it.’

“And that was it,” Hawkins said, chuckling. “Nothing would ever make him change his mind.”

“How did Ben treat you?” I asked.

“He treated me fine,” Hawkins replied.

“You got along well with him, it sounds like.”

“Yeah, but not all things good.”

Hawkins told me about a time when he sought a club job in Los Angeles. He was in his early forties, about to leave the PGA Tour.

“It was a good job,” he said. “They said who could I give for a recommendation, and I named Hogan and somebody else.”

The club told Hawkins that would be great.

“I called [Hogan] on the phone and asked if he’d send a letter of recommendation. He said that’s not the way to do it. They call me and I’ll give you a good recommendation, but I’m not going to write one and send it to them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done.

“I said, OK.”

The Hogan recommendation never got to the club.

“I didn’t get the job,” Hawkins said, “which I wasn’t broken up about it. The next time I saw [Hogan], he said, ‘How’s that job going?’

“I said, ‘What job?’

“'That job out there in California.’

“I said, ‘I didn’t get it.

“[Hogan] just stopped and looked down at the ground.

“‘You didn’t want that job anyhow,’ he said.”

* * *

Fred Hawkins recalled Jimmy Demaret, Hogan’s frequent match-play partner on tour, as “such an entertaining and funny and witty guy.”

Demaret beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff  just prior to Hogan’s February 1949 accident that nearly killed him. Later on, after Hogan recovered, Demaret quipped about it.

“They’d had a playoff in Phoenix and Hogan was on his way [to Fort Worth],” Hawkins said. “And Demaret said [Hogan] was so damned upset he went ahead and ran into a Greyhound bus.

“Jimmy Demaret was the most delightful guy to be around that I have ever seen. We used to get he and Phil Harris together. They could put on a show for hours.”

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 1
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 2
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 4
Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 5

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