The State Senior Championship, played at Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth, concluded Sunday with part-time Austinite Ron Kilby winning his second state senior title in a playoff over Ken Coutant of Dallas. Kilby and Coutant finished regulation play at two over par before Kilby won the first playoff hole with a two putt par. The full story and finishing scores are available at this link.
Ben Hogan was a founding member of Shady Oaks and played and practiced there in the later portion of his career. The clubhouse is decorated with Hogan memorabilia and the participants enjoyed being surrounded with that environment.
The clubhouse was redesigned in recent years and now has a minimalistic and modern architecture. The golf shop has large doors that open to the outside air and when the weather is right the doors are open and provide a seamless transition from the putting green into the golf shop than enhances the feeling of it being part of the course.
The walls in the golf shop, mens locker room, and hallways on the lower floor are decorated with all kinds of Hogan memorabilia.
The mens locker room complex includes large open areas in a dining room portion where players could taste the breakfast and lunch buffets or order from the menu while watching the Ryder Cup matches on the abundant flat screen televisions. They were also able to be seated in what is now called the “Hogan Room”, which was part of the dining area.
The Hogan room overlooks the 18th green at Shady Oaks and is in the approximate place of “Mr. Hogan’s table” in previous clubhouse configurations. For those of you not steeped in the lore of Ben Hogan, this table was permanently reserved for Mr. Hogan and this is where he would sit, eat, drink and smoke when he was spending time at the club.
It’s interesting to look at the contents which included some golf clubs, clothing, shoes and personal articles that he used to deal with the pain in is legs after his car accident. Notice the various creams and bandages that he used and had to apply before and after he played a round of golf along the famous caps that he wore and the golf shoes with the extra spike he had added to his shoes.
Passing by the locker and turning the corner of the hallway, you are presented with a multiple panel display of Hogan’s 1953 season in which he won three major tournaments and all five officially sanctioned events he entered. It is generally referred to as the “Triple Crown” year.
And after watching Tiger Woods and recently Rory McIlroy accomplish multiple major victories within a single year, it is easy to appreciate the magnitude of Hogan’s accomplishment in 1953. At that time, only Bobby Jones had won three or more majors in a single year.
On the adjacent wall you are able to view a list of the 64 victories that Mr. Hogan amassed during his career. After struggling for several years to get on the tour and stay there he collected his first win at the Hershey Four Ball Championship in 1938. It was not until 1940 that he claimed his first individual title at the North and South Open Championship. You can click on this photo to enlarge the print and then use the back button to return to this text.
Along other walls you will find pictures of Hogan swinging the golf club, excerpts from his famous “The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” instructional book, photos of his ticker tape parade in 1953 when he was named “Athlete of the Year” and the Life magazine article where Hogan revealed his “secret” after he had retired from competitive golf, along with other interesting items.
One of the features of this particular tournament was the opportunity to hit one of Mr. Hogan’s drivers. As players played the 18th hole during the practice round, a photographer was set up to photograph the player hitting a ball with one of Hogan’s drivers. The photographer would snap the shot just as the player reached the top of the back swing. Then the photo was placed in a side by side format with a picture of Hogan at the top of his back swing and presented to the players the following day. It provided players with a nice tee gift from the Shady Oaks Country Club. Of course, it also prompted players to think about altering their swing.
Players were universally amazed at the placement of the “reminder” grip feature on these drivers and how weak of a grip it promoted on the club. The drivers were somewhat flat in their lie and of course they were all wooden headed “Ben Hogan” persimmon. The shafts were very stiff. Almost everyone hit their shots to the right and were left to ponder how Mr. Hogan could possibly square the club at impact.
Jody Vasquez, who is 67 and won the super senior portion of the tournament, shagged balls for Mr. Hogan as a youth. He had the benefit of watching Mr. Hogan hit hundreds of balls and occasionally listen to Mr. Hogan talk about the golf swing. When Vasquez was asked how Hogan squared the club at impact given the stiff shaft and weak grip he replied, “He did it with his legs. Anytime I overhead Mr. Hogan have a serious conversation about the golf swing he emphasized the lower body action more than the upper body.”
The golf course is a beautiful layout with more elevation changes than one would have anticipated. From the tee, players are given adequate room in the fairways although some holes are tighter than others. And, it is important to hit the fairway off the tee because the greens are sloped and fast so putting becomes very challenging if the approach shot is left above or to the side of the hole. Shots coming out of the rough have little chance to be controlled properly.
It was a fun course to play in some respects but in others it felt more like a war of attrition with constant pressure on the player to hole five footers for par and fewer birdie opportunities than can be found on some courses. The average score for the field was 79. And, that is saying something because players had to qualify or have low handicaps to gain entry into the tournament. There are a number of participants that have played in U.S. Senior Opens, U.S. Senior Amateurs (including one winner of that event) and been previous winners of the state senior championship. The winning score was two over par and not a single player broke 70 on the par 71 layout.
Peach Reynolds and Mike Allen were the only two players from Austin to make the cut. They finished T22 with a 226 total. Click here for full field results.