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.

Tuesday, October 21

2015 HOF Class Notes: A.W. Tillinghast

An early 20th century brochure featuring Tillinghast golf courses.
Laura Davies, David Graham, Mark O’Meara and A.W. Tillinghast will be enshrined into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015. Following is a profile of Tillinghast.

By World Golf Hall of Fame Communications

Born in 1874, Albert Warren (A.W.) Tillinghast took golf lessons from Old Tom Morris, was an admirer of St Andrews, and used that knowledge to become a true pioneer of American golf. He was a prolific architect, with more than 100 U.S. courses to his credit. He was also an original member of the PGA of America and authored a slew of books about the game.

Several of Tillinghast’s designs are still considered among the world’s best and used frequently for golf’s major championships. Bethpage State Park, Winged Foot, Baltusrol Golf Club, San Francisco Golf Club, Quaker Ridge and Somerset Hills are all Tillinghast designs.

Tillinghast died in 1942 at the age of 68.

Golf Digest: '11 Top Sleepers to Watch'

IN "BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE Sundance Kid," Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) kept saying, "Who are those guys?" That line reminds me of the PGA Tour, those homogeneous players in the pack who have never won or maybe even had a sniff of a top 10 finish. But new accomplished players do emerge, don't they? When I looked at my "Who Are Those Guys?" series from a few years back I saw (among others) these names: Gary Woodland, Keegan Bradley and Jonas Blixt.

Golf Digest has published its 11 top sleepers to watch on the PGA Tour during the 2014-15 season. What is Golf Digest's definition of a sleeper? The magazine said: "We define a sleeper as a player who has never won on the PGA Tour or qualified for the Tour Championship."

The names on its sleepers list are Justin Thomas, Carlos Ortiz, Brian Stuard, Daniel Summerhays, William McGirt, Brook Koepka, Tony Finau, Zachary Blair, Hudson Swafford, Russell Knox and Adam Hadwin.

[Golf Digest Slideshow: 11 Top Sleepers to Watch]

They're certainly not household names. Not yet at least. But neither were Jimmy Walker and Hideki Matsuyama. And the magazine predicted "big things" for those two. We'll be watching.

Monday, October 20

Yahoo! More Reviews of 'DRAW IN THE DUNES'

FOLLOWING ARE MORE REVIEWS of my new Ryder Cup book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World. The book, which includes a foreword by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, is in bookstores and also available online at the usual places in hardcover and ebook editions.

YAHOO! Sports (Devil Ball Golf) by Jay Busbee (October 17):
"'Draw in the Dunes,' a new book from Neil Sagebiel, tells the story of an astonishing act of sportsmanship at the Ryder Cup, and does so in compelling fashion....Sagebiel had to work without the benefit of complete telecasts in setting his stage, and he does so magnificently, from the varying personalities to the varying locales charted in the story. He draws on the recollections of the participants, and even got Nicklaus and Jacklin to write a foreword for the book. Simply put, this is the definitive account of one of golf's great stories of sportsmanship and honor."
Read entire review

The Roanoke Times by Ralph Berrier Jr. (October 19):
"...[Jack] Nicklaus’ famous concession is just the beginning of “Draw in the Dunes,” the enjoyably readable piece of sports history from Neil Sagebiel, a nationally prominent golf blogger and author from Floyd who has a reputation for digging up interesting golf stories and telling them as deftly as a PGA pro handles a 9-iron around the green. Sagebiel’s previous golf book, 'The Longest Shot,' was one of Booklist’s top 10 sports books of 2012 and earned him worthy comparisons to other top golf writers such as John Feinstein."
Read entire review

Webb Simpson Poised for Short Putter Change

Webb Simpson
WEBB SIMPSON, WHO RECENTLY SAID the 2014 Ryder Cup was a "terrible experience," finished T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. With four rounds in the 60s, Simpson finished 15 under for the tournament, five shots behind Ben Martin, who collected his first win on the PGA Tour in his 58th start.

Simpson has been using a belly putter since his collegiate days at Wake Forest a decade ago, but the four-time PGA Tour winner and 2012 U.S. Open champions is mindful that change is coming in 14 months. Mandated by the USGA and The R&A, the anchored putting ban will go into effect January 1, 2016.

According to Tour Report at, Simpson has been experimenting with four or five short putters at home for the past two years. Simpson uses short putters about half the time during his home practice sessions and casual rounds. Now he's very close to putting a short putter in his bag for competitive play. It could happen as soon as next month at the Dunlop Phoenix Open.

"I may switch for Japan in a few weeks," Simpson told, "but I’m still just trying to make sure I’m ready to go and have worked on everything I need to work on before I start."

If the audition is a success, Simpson said the short putter could earn a permanent spot in his golf bag during 2015.

Friday, October 17

2015 HOF Class Notes: David Graham

Laura Davies, David Graham, Mark O’Meara and A.W. Tillinghast will be enshrined into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015. Following is a profile of Graham.

By World Golf Hall of Fame Communications

David Graham
Among his more than 20 victories worldwide, Graham won the 1979 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club and the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion. Graham’s final-round 67 at Merion is considered one of the best final rounds in major championship history; it even merited a post-round phone call from Ben Hogan.

While Graham’s two biggest wins were on U.S. soil, the Australian is truly an international competitor, joining Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer and Gary Player as the only players to win events on six different continents. He represented Australia in three Dunhill Cups and two World Cups, winning the 1970 World Cup with Bruce Devlin. He was also the International Team captain in the first Presidents Cup competition in 1994.

“Clearly, to be accepted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as player is the icing on the cake on what has been a nice career,” Graham said. “It is a great honor for me, my wife, my kids and all of my friends.”

Flashback Friday: Nicklaus vs. Trevino in 1970 World Match Play Final

IF YOU'RE A GOLF HISTORY NERD (or not), you might love this 14-minute video that features Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino in their prime playing a 36-hole final in the 1970 World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club outside of London. Both men are 30. Nicklaus has slimmed down after the 1969 season, his hair is longer and check out those sideburns!

I watched the entire video last night, which is essentially the highlights of the final match. It's a great look at the two legends' golf swings, short games and putting. The video also features a youthful Ben Wright, who went on to become a longtime golf announcer on CBS in America.

This year is the 50th anniversary of of the World Match Play Championship (now sponsored by Volvo), currently being played at London Golf Club and concluding on Sunday. Beginning in 1964, Arnold Palmer (two) and Gary Player (three) won the first five match play championships. Player won two more in 1971 and 1973. No doubt, the South African was one of the greatest match players of all time.

Seve Ballesteros also won five World Match Play Championship titles, from 1981 to 1991. And there's that other South African great, Ernie Els, who beginning in 1994 has won the event a record seven times.

Thursday, October 16

2015 HOF Class Notes: Laura Davies

Laura Davies, David Graham, Mark O’Meara and A.W. Tillinghast will be enshrined into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015. Following is a profile of Davies.

By World Golf Hall of Fame Communications

Laura Davies
With more than 70 victories worldwide and four LPGA majors, Laura Davies is considered by many to be the most successful female British player of all time. After an accomplished amateur career, Davies made it clear she would be a force when she won both the Rookie of the Year and the Order of Merit on the Ladies European Tour in 1985.

In 1987, while still only a 23-year-old member of the LET, Davies outdueled future Hall of Fame members Ayako Okamoto and Joanne Carner in an 18-hole playoff to win the U.S. Women’s Open at Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club.  In the mid-1990s, Davies became one of the dominant players in the world, winning the 1994 and 1996 LPGA Championships at Dupont (Del.) Country Club. She added a fourth major with the 1996 du Maurier Classic.

Davies has represented Europe a record 12 times in the Solheim Cup, playing in every competition from 1990-2011. Among her numerous awards are the Golf Writers Association of America Female Player of the Year in 1994 and 1996, and the 1994 Golf Writers’ Trophy from the Association of Golf Writers. She was named a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 2000.

“It is a wonderful honor,” Davies said. “I am especially looking forward to the Induction Ceremony at St Andrews in 2015. It really will be a special event.”