Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 3

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 INTRODUCTIONPart 1, and Part 2.

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 3 1
A Shelley Mayfield putter.

WITH BEN HOGAN IN FORT WORTH and Shelley Mayfield in Dallas, the game was on.

“I remember the first time I played with Hogan at Brook Hollow,” Mayfield said.

“The 3rd hole was a dogleg left, and it’s really a 3-wood and about a 6-iron or a 5-iron, it could be a 4-iron hole, and the green is sitting down well below you. Sometimes you can’t see the pin on the green.

“Hogan, when he started to hit his second shot, kept squatting and looking, squatting and looking. It didn’t dawn on me at the time, but he hit his shot, and I think he hit a 4-iron, but he should have hit a 5-iron, and he hit right at the back edge of the green, right by a marker pin, a pin that they placed off the back edge of the green to show you where the green was. He thought that was the pin, so that tells you what kind of judgment of distance he had.

“He was like a machine.”

That first Brook Hollow round sparked another memory of Hogan’s prowess.

“He—which I never had any ability to do at all myself—he would say 278 will win this tournament. And believe me, it wasn’t over one or two shots away. I don’t know how he could predict it like that, but he could.

“Today, as I think back, that may have cost him a few tournaments. He was always so positive about everything. When he said 278 will win this tournament, he put that in his mind and I’m going to shoot 278 or 277, and when he did that somebody might shoot 276 or 275.

“But who knows?”

Shelley Mayfield played the professional tour for a few years in the mid 1950s.

“When I went out in ‘53,” Mayfield said, “I won the St. Paul Open that same year, in July.

“I played a couple winter tours. I went out in ‘48 and I couldn’t even qualify for a tournament until I got to San Antonio. By then I knew you got to find a job and find out how to play the game. You’ve got to build two or three steps higher than where you were. I was a good player, but those guys out there could beat my brains out.

“So I was lucky enough to find a job at Winged Foot with Claude Harmon. I worked all summer there, with Claude.

“Claude said, ‘Shelley, you know you’re not ready yet to go back out on tour. Why don’t you come down to Seminole and be my assistant down there this winter?’

“So I said, ‘That’s good. I’d like to do that.’

“That was a great thing for me because we had to go to work at 8 o’clock in the morning and we got off at dark. But nobody showed up until about noon. I mean, one or two people. Nobody. So that left me from eight to 12 to practice.

“Claude said, “I don’t want any of my assistants hanging around the golf shop. I want them either on the practice tee, playing golf, or giving a lesson.’ “He said, ‘I want good players as assistants.’

“At that time, that was unique. So he had no problem at all with me practicing four hours every morning. That kind of set the stage.

“Then I got my own job the following year at a small club called Rockaway Hunting Club on Long Island. All it had was an 18-hole golf course.

“Of course, Winged Foot was a [Albert] Tillinghast course. Rockaway Hunting was a Tillinghast course. Meadowbrook was a Tillinghast course. Actually, it wasn’t when I was there because they had just run the freeway through the old Meadowbrook and moved it over. That’s how I got to know Dick Wilson, and built the new Meadowbrook golf course. And then Brook Hollow—the only clubs I ever associated with were Tillinghast courses.

“I went to work there at Rockaway Hunting and was there for three years, just a wonderful little club, wonderful members. They couldn’t have been nicer. I practiced late every evening. They all went to their parties and things fairly early. That left me two or three hours every evening to practice. I honed up my game. By the time I left to go on the tour, believe me, I was ready. I knew how to play golf.

“It took me about five months, but I won my first tournament. I should have won the week before. I guess it was just because of lack of experience.”

Next time: Shelley Mayfield on tour travel and more.

Other Installments:

Playing With Hogan (Introduction)

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 1

Playing With Hogan: Shelley Mayfield, Part 2

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

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