Jules Alexander A photographer turned his fascination with Ben Hogan into an affecting memorial to the man

March 22, 1999

If not for some gentle prodding by his two sons, Jules Alexander
might never have shown the world some of the best photographs
ever taken of Ben Hogan. The subject of publishing the pictures
came up in January 1989, while Jules; his wife, Danna; and their
older boy, 25-year-old Paul, were visiting the younger son,
Carl, then a 23-year-old senior at Arizona. In the car one day,
Paul said, "Dad, you've got to share your Hogan photos."

Carl seconded the notion. "Yeah, Dad. Pros like Chip Beck and
Gil Morgan spend hours at the house drooling over them," he
said. "They're magical, and it's not fair to keep them hidden.
You're the only one on the planet with those pictures." The rest
is history.

Alexander, 72, grew up in the Bronx idolizing Ansel Adams and
took his first picture when he was 12. At 15 he was shooting the
likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra for
Down Beat magazine. Three years later Alexander attended the
Naval Photography School, then did photographic reconnaissance
work in the South Pacific during World War II. After the war he
returned to New York City and became one of the city's
preeminent advertising and fashion photographers.

Although sports photography wasn't on his mind, Ben Hogan was.
Alexander first met Hogan in 1953. "My friend John Muller had
the FootJoy account and asked if I wanted to help shoot Hogan,
who was on his way home from [winning] the British Open," says
Alexander. "I wasn't a golfer and didn't know much about Hogan,
but I went anyway." Alexander was awestruck when Hogan entered
the studio. "He was cool and elegant, wearing a smart suit and a
tie," says Alexander. "I was mesmerized."

Six years later the U.S. Open was played at Winged Foot, 20
miles northeast of New York City. Alexander assigned himself to
cover the tournament, but the focus of the assignment narrowed
considerably once he arrived at the course. "Hogan was
amazing--totally alone but magnetic," says Alexander, who shot
no one else but the Hawk. "He never spoke, but he was tranquil,
even smiled some, and he smoked constantly."

Alexander was pleased with his Hogan photos but never considered
trying to sell them. "I didn't know what I had," he says.
However, watching Hogan, who tied for eighth, five strokes
behind the winner, Billy Casper, inspired Alexander to take up
golf. He taught himself to play by studying his photos and
reading Five Lessons, Hogan's classic instruction book.

Not until 1971, when the family moved to a house adjacent to the
practice range at Westchester Country Club, in suburban
Harrison, N.Y., did Alexander learn the value of his Hogan
collection. Friends would come to his house and gawk at the
pictures for hours. So would the Tour pros in town for the
Westchester (now Buick) Classic. As word of the photos spread,
Alexander received offers to market them but always said no.
"It's the only thing I've ever been possessive about," he says.
"I felt a strange attachment--like the pictures were a part of
me. I didn't want to see them commercialized."

Alexander partially relented in 1986, and two of the shots were
published in the U.S. Open program. Suddenly Alexander and his
photos were a hot commodity. The day after the Open, his phone
rang. "Do you have more Hogan pictures?" asked Jim Dalthrop, an
executive at Tracy-Locke, the advertising agency that handled
the Ben Hogan Company account.

"Uh, yes."

"Are they for sale?"

"I have to think," Alexander said hesitantly. "Well, yes, they
are."

The next day Dalthrop flew to New York and cut a deal that
allowed the company to use the pictures as the centerpiece of an
ad campaign.

Alexander and his photos gained greater renown in 1994, when 70
of the pictures were published in The Hogan Mystique. Ben and
Valerie Hogan liked the book so much that they sent it to
friends as a Christmas gift. "Jules was one of my husband's
favorite people," says Valerie. "He really admired him as a
photographer but even more so as a gentleman."

The pictures, some of which are on display at the World Golf
Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., have a cultlike following
on the Tour. Several players, including Beck, Keith Clearwater
and Peter Jacobsen, have paid full freight for a portfolio of
the prints. "There is a special blend of art and poetry in
Jules's work, which is why I call him the Maestro," says Ben
Crenshaw. "Like no one else, Jules captured Mr. Hogan's
countenance, his mannerisms and his grim determination. To do
that required not only artistic talent but also a deep love of
the game."

--Rick Lipsey

COLOR PHOTO: NICK CARDILLICCHIO Paul (left) and Carl urged their dad to go public.

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