At dusk on a muggy evening during the 1979 Westchester Classic, Jeanine Morgan was watching her husband, Gil, practice his short irons on the driving range at Westchester (N.Y.) Country Club when she was invited to have an iced tea on the terrace of the course-side home of photographer Jules Alexander. While Jeanine sipped, Gil hit a few last wedges and then walked over to retrieve his wife.
"I wonder if I could show you some photographs?" Alexander asked Gil.
"Sorry, but we have a dinner engagement," said Gil.
"They're of Ben Hogan."
"Where's your phone?"
The Morgans postponed supper, and Gil spent two hours in Alexander's living room poring over pictures that Alexander had taken of Hogan at the 1959 U.S. Open. "That's the magic of Hogan's name," says Alexander. "He has a certain mystique that no golfer can resist." Several of the shots that mesmerized Morgan that evening are included in the Hogan photo essay that begins on page 42 of this, the second special edition of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CLASSIC.
Alexander, 65 and a five handicapper, built his own golf swing by reading a five-part series of articles written by Hogan entitled The Modern Fundamentals of Golf (SI, March 11, 1957, et seq.). He became fascinated by Hogan; when the U.S. Open came to Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., in '59, Alexander, a free-lance photographer, shadowed Hogan for all 72 holes. "He always looked so isolated, deep in thought," says Alexander, "as if he were playing chess rather than golf."
Although he worked for 10 years for Golf magazine, Alexander never met Hogan until Aug. 14, 1992. It was the day after Hogan's 80th birthday, and Alexander arranged to meet golf's most notorious recluse at Hogan's country club, Shady Oaks in Fort Worth. "I gave him reproductions of my photographs, then we talked for 15 minutes and had our picture taken together," Alexander says. "It was one of the biggest thrills of my life."
The Hogan portfolio has caused more than a few curious Hoganophiles to turn up at Alexander's door. One evening in 1988, PGA golfer Chip Beck stopped by to see about purchasing one of the photos. Alexander offered Beck a print of the shot of his choice; while struggling to decide which photo to take, Beck said, "You know, Jules, I'm probably Hogan's number one fan."
"Sorry, my friend," Alexander responded. "You'll have to settle for number two, because I will always be Ben Hogan's number one fan."
In Texas, Alexander (right) visited at last with Hogan, his hero.