Wednesday, August 31

Golf World Loses Another 'Hawk': A Remembrance of Jules Alexander

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

JULES ALEXANDER PASSED AWAY ON FRIDAY, August 19th, in Westchester, New York, at the age of 90. The report said he died peacefully in a White Plains hospital after suffering from a late-night fall.

That would be so like Jules, I thought. He never was one to call attention to himself.

Jules was a photographer.

His whole professional life was spent behind a camera, catching on black-and-white film the greatness of others. Jules wasn't one to seek glory for himself, but glory rightly came to him over time as those in front of the camera turned to bow and recognize the man who immortalized them.

First as a teenager, he photographed the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra for Down Beat magazine; in World War II as an aerial reconnaissance photographer, and later as a high fashion photographer for magazines like Vogue and Glamour. Then he followed his heart and his love, and for most of his life, caught on film the great golf courses of the world and the greatest players of the game.

Collaborating With Jules

I was fortunate to have Jules as the photographer for our 1990 book, Playing With The Pros: Golf Lessons From The Senior Tour, published by Dutton Books. That book featured instructions from the likes of Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Bruce Crampton, Light Horse Harry Cooper and a half dozen other pros who played on the Senior Tour over its first decade.

At the time Jules was the photographer for Met Golfer, the magazine for the Metropolitan Golf Association of Greater New York, but he agreed to join me on my book project. For several weeks, stretched across the summer months of 1999, Jules and I traveled around the East Coast, and as far south as North Carolina, interviewing and photographing famous PGA Tour players.

While I was interviewing pros and writing notes on how they played the game, Jules was adding to my knowledge by telling me stories of the great players he knew and had photographed.

His Golf Hero

He told me, as he would tell everyone he could, how he took a train in 1959 out from the Bronx to Winged Foot and saw Ben Hogan up-close-and-personal. From that time on, Hogan was the "golf hero" of Alexander's life. Jules knew every story told about Ben, and photographed him whenever he could.

One of The Hogan photos, "Alone on the Green," Jules said, "is my favorite and a favorite of Hogan's wife. She selected it to hang over the fireplace in The Ben Hogan Room at the USGA Golf House in New Jersey."

That photo, taken at Winged Foot, caught Hogan on the green with his putter in hand and glancing off to one side. "He was talking to his friend and longtime professional at Winged Foot, Claude Harmon," Jules told me. Harmon is beyond the photograph's frame. "It shows a man," Jules said, "at peace with himself and his surroundings."

There is also a collection of Alexander's photographs at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Mike Dougherty, sports reporter for The Journal News in Westchester, New York, quoted Jimmy Roberts of NBC, who tells of a recent stay at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel in Scotland, where Hogan won his one Open Championship. "I was walking through corridors," Roberts recalled, "and I'm noticing there are photos of Hogan playing at Winged Foot and also at Westchester Country Club. It really brought it home to me how well known Jules was. This is a famous and foreign place and there was Jules' work in the lobby."

Love of the Game

Not only did Jules love to photograph golfers and golf courses, he loved the game itself. When I knew him, he played to a 7 handicap and lived in a house where the kitchen faced the practice area of the Westchester Country Club. "This is convenient," I told Jules, nodding towards the course the first time I visited him at his home on Belmont Avenue in Rye.

The house was his wife Danna's idea, he told me. Knowing his love of golf she went looking for a home near a golf course when they moved out of New York City. Playing golf in Manhattan, Jules told me, meant he had to carry his clubs and ride a subway at dawn out to courses off the island.

It was a good move, and a career move. Danna opened a fashion store in town and their boys grew up to play the game. Both are golf professionals in New York and New Jersey.

Well known at Westchester Country Club for his knowledge of the game and his warm personality, Jules years ago was nicknamed "Hawk" by members because of his fascination with the original "Hawk," the nickname given to Ben Hogan.

A celebration of Alexander's life was held on Wednesday, August 22, at the Westchester Country Club for members and for the public who knew Jules not as a photographer, or a club member, but as a neighbor and friend from town.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

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