Tuesday, April 29

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 2

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 INTRODUCTION and Part 1.

Ben Hogan on SI cover in 1957.
SHELLEY MAYFIELD'S REGULAR GAME with Ben Hogan began around 1963. It came after Hogan called Mayfield about a job opening in Dallas.

"I went to Brook Hollow in 1963," Mayfield said. "Hogan was the one that recommended me, called me on the phone and said, 'I don't know how you're doing, Shelley, but I just want to let you know there's a nice club open in Dallas. It's a golf club, not a country club. It's one heck of a golf course. So, if you're interested, let me give you this name and you can call it.'

"And it just so happened to be that I was interested because I had this club in New York, Meadowbrook, which I really enjoyed."

Yet, as Mayfield recalled, there was at least one drawback to the otherwise enjoyable Meadowbrook job.

"I had gotten into the golf architectural business with Dick Wilson," he said, "and I spent the winters in Florida with him. I had to take my daughter, put her in school in New York, take her out, put her in school in Florida, take her out, put her back in school in New York, all in the same year. And that couldn't possibly work.

"I had to do something about it and I was in a big quandary about whether to go into the golf architectural business entirely, or find a 12-month job as a club professional. I really enjoyed club work, and particularly so at a golf club rather than a country club.

"So this was very enticing to me and I got in touch with the president of Brook Hollow, came down, had an interview. He later told me, 'You were the first man we interviewed and we didn't interview anyone else.'

"I had a wonderful relationship there for about 20 years. Great golf club. Alfred Tillinghast designed the course, great golf course, so it was a very happy union."

* * *

With Ben Hogan in Fort Worth and Shelley Mayfield in Dallas, the game was on.

"I was only 20 miles from Hogan and Shady Oaks and it was very easy for us to get together," Mayfield said. "He said, 'Get your best player, and I'll get my best player, and we'll have a match every couple of weeks.'

The hours of shotmaking passed quietly.

"We hardly even spoke to each other. Nobody hardly talked in the foursome. It was silent.

“We might say, 'Good shot.' Sure, something like that. But no conversation, no telling jokes, bantering around making conversation. It was a pretty silent game. But you played your best shot every shot, or it wouldn't be any fun. That's what made it fun, a very strong contest each time.

"[Hogan] once told me, 'Now, don't get to be playing with a bunch of 15 handicappers over there at the club. They'll make a 15 handicapper out of you. He said you got to keep good competition going at all times. A very straightforward man, very honest.”

A break from the matches began whenever there was a chill in the air.

"He only played in the summer when it was warm," Mayfield said. "It'd be late May or June before we'd start. Along about September or October we'd quit because his shoulder and knee hurt him in the cool weather. He either hung them up or he went to Florida, which he did a lot. He spent a lot of winters there at Seminole, and practiced and played.

"I stayed there at my club. It was a twelve-month job. But we had a very good relationship for a very long time."

Next time: Shelley Mayfield on his first game with Ben Hogan at Brook Hollow.

Other Installments:
Playing With Hogan (Introduction)
Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 1


Oneunder said...

Silent matches, almost always the best.

The Armchair Golfer said...