Wednesday, November 5

Playing With Hogan: Fred Hawkins, Part 3

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 1 and Part 2.

Fred Hawkins in 1959.
BORN IN 1923, FRED HAWKINS GREW up in Antioch, Illinois, about 50 miles north of Chicago on the Wisconsin border. His exposure to golf began when his father sold the family farm.

“He sold it to some people who wanted to build a golf course,” Hawkins said, “and he helped them build it, actually did a good deal of the work just with a team of horses and some other farm implements.”

The people completed the course but struggled afterward. “They couldn’t meet the payments.”

Hawkins’s father and a few partners took over. His dad operated the course for the next three decades. It was a family venture—dad, mom, older brother, older sister and Fred.

“We all worked at the club,” Hawkins said. “We had a lot of play. It was a good course. A lot of people came out from Chicago in those days for the weekend. It’s kind of a lakes region there, very popular.”

Called Chain O’Lakes when young Fred roamed its fairways, today the course is known as the Antioch Country Club. The town itself looks much the same along the main street, but there has been a lot of development outside of it as Lake County has developed as a tourist destination and place to settle.

* * *

Fred Hawkins had two sixth-place finishes and an eleventh in the U.S. Open over a 15-year period. 

“I played in the ‘48 Open out in Los Angeles when Hogan won,” Hawkins said. “I always liked Riviera.

“I usually made the cut in the Open. I finished tie for [sixth] with a couple other guys in 1951. That was Oakland Hills. I played well again at Inverness in 1956 or 57. Dick Mayer won. He beat [Cary] Middlecoff in a playoff down at the Inverness Club in Toledo. I finished near the top there. That was the best I ever played in the Open, if I had made any putts. I didn’t putt well.”

Hawkins felt most comfortable near and on the greens.

“I suppose the best part of my game has always been the short game,” he said. “I always felt I was a rather poor driver. I wasn’t particularly short and I wasn’t particularly long. I was somewhere in the middle. But I wasn’t as straight. I was a good iron player, and was usually pretty good with a four wood or fairway woods.”

Hawkins earned decent checks during an era when tournament purses were small.

“I finished in the money winners pretty regularly. The best I ever finished [on the money list] was fourth in 1956, and I won a little less than $25,000 for the year.

They only paid 20 places. A lot of the tournaments in the 1950s and early 1960s—some of them started getting a little bigger. But they only paid 20 places, and 10th place was like $200. We played some other pro-ams where we made some other money, unofficial money.

“The money was really very scarce. We were really kind of foolish because we could have made more money doing something else but we all loved to play and we liked the competition. We got by and made a decent living. I had two kids and we got by with it all right.”

There was one big money tournament—the World Championship of Golf at Tam O’Shanter near Chicago.

“Usually the money winner came out of Tam O’Shanter,” Hawkins said, “because the first prize was $50,000. I finished second there ... The biggest check I won was $10,000. That was the biggest check I ever won on the regular tour.

“I’ve always felt that the top players had all the advantages in the first place. They were good enough where they could play less tournaments and still do well. And they did better because they did play less tournaments because your game breaks down under competition.

“You need to play two or three tournaments and then get off the tour and try to get your game back together again. Before the ropes came up, they used to pack around the greens—the good players had a gallery—and they fired into the greens and they seldom went over because it hit somebody and stayed right on the edges.

“That’s just the way it was.”

When Fred Hawkins did get off the tour, or was preparing to go back out there, he often practiced with the most feared player on the circuit—Ben Hogan.

Next time: Practice rounds with Ben Hogan.

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

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