Hogan Hero

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Essays by Dave Anderson, Ben Crenshaw, and Dan Jenkins, with commentary by Ken Venturi, The American Golfer/ Triumph Books, 132 pages .

One June day in 1959 the photographer Jules Alexander took his camera to the U.S. Open to see how he liked tournament golf. During the practice round he spotted a tanned, intense figure in a white cap drawing a respectful crowd, and he followed him through the course and the tournament, snapping pictures as he went. The man was Ben Hogan, who was then entering the twilight of one of the greatest careers in golf. What makes Alexander’s black-and-white photographs so appealing is not only their charismatic subject but also their lushness—the luxurious ease with which the camera follows Hogan over the roughs and fairways. These are hardly instructional sports pictures, although much can be learned from any photograph of Hogan in action. Knowing very little about him starting out, Alexander beautifully recorded the golfer in his complexity. Watch Hogan deliberately push back one sweater sleeve as he considers the shot and the landscape’s hazards. See how, in the different pictured swings, his legs, hips, shoulders, and visor finish relentlessly the same; his body is stone still while his arms take violent motion. He pauses for a cigarette, but not to relax; he scowls, addresses the ball again with controlled passion. These scenes are reproduced large enough to show the long course vistas and awed faces in the gallery watching the master work.

The legend of Hogan, as recalled by four knowledgeable writers, accompanies the photographs. He came back in 1950, months after nearly dying in a head-on collision with a truck, and had nine major titles in eight seasons and an unsurpassed series of performances in 1953. “When he was asked in the early ’80s which of the era’s golfers he would enjoy playing against,” writes Anderson, “he never hesitated.

“‘Tom Watson,’ he said quickly.

“Of all those young golfers out there, why Watson?”

“‘I’ve beaten all the other guys.’”

The Hogan Mystique shows how surely he did it.