‘You do not speak to anybody on the golf course, especially your uncle.’
Townsend: As Ben Hogan’s closest living relative, Jacque Hogan Towery has memories of late champ that don’t exist in history books
FORT WORTH — Ben Hogan reminders are everywhere, most prominently the 7-foot bronze statue of him overlooking Colonial Country Club’s 18th green.
There’s the Hogan Trophy Room in the clubhouse. His name is chiseled five times on the Wall of Champions. Why, the entire place is nicknamed Hogan’s Alley.
Round after round, year after year, however, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial spectators walk past the 16th green oblivious to a Hogan in the flesh.
“Fine by me,” says Jacque Hogan Towery, Ben’s 79-year-old niece and closest living relative. “My blood is really Hogan blood, and I’m very conservative, very private.”
Yep, she’s a Hogan, all right. Discretion is in her family DNA, although the Hogan surname is now mostly history, albeit everlastingly.
Towery doesn’t go around telling folks this, but she is nine-time major champion Hogan’s closest living relative.
That only begins to describe her deep kinship with golf and Colonial in particular. Her father, Royal Hogan, was Ben’s older brother by three years and was Colonial’s club champion in 1944, 1948, 1949 and 1953.
At the inaugural 1946 Colonial Invitational, 12-year-old Jacque not only watched Uncle Ben win, but her father, an amateur, finish 25th among the 29-player field.
Uncle Ben also won in ’47, with Royal Hogan again finishing 25th. Back then, there were no ropes separating players from the gallery, but young Jacque was well-schooled in golf etiquette.
“Growing up,” she says, “I was always taught, ‘You do not speak to anybody on the golf course, especially your uncle.’”
Her tutelage was unexpectedly tested while she was walking down Colonial’s 14th fairway.
“Out of the corner of my eye I see Uncle Ben coming up, so I just kept walking. As he passed me, he turned and said, ‘Oh, hello, Jacqueline. How are you?’ I took a big, deep breath and said, ‘I’m just fine, Uncle Ben,’ scared to death because I wasn’t supposed to speak to him.”
The best Fort Worth-resident Towery can recall, Sunday’s final round of the 67th Colonial will be her 64th.
She missed the ’58 and ’59 Colonials while living in Spain and one a few years ago because she was recuperating from surgery.
For many years she attended the tournament with her husband, Robert, until he died three years ago. She has four grown children and 13 grandchildren.
This week, six of Jacque’s grandkids have been with her at Colonial, sharing her tradition of alternately sitting behind the par-3 16th and par-4 ninth holes.
Only a handful of the patrons who sit near Jacque know of her Hogan lineage.
“I don’t go around saying who I am,” she says.
It’s well-chronicled that Chester Hogan was a blacksmith in Dublin, Texas, when he and wife Clara had son Ben in 1912. Often, it’s been written that Ben was born in Dublin.
“He was born in a hospital in Stephenville,” Jacque says matter-of-factly, “and I have the birth certificate.”
Ben was the youngest of Chester’s and Clara’s three children. Daughter Princess was born in 1907, Royal in 1909.
Ben and his wife, Valerie, never had children. Neither did Princess and her husband. Royal Hogan and wife Margaret had two children. Royal Jr. was born 15 years after Jacque but died in 1986, at age 38.
When Royal died in 1996, Ben, in declining health, could only tell family members, “I can’t believe Bubba is gone.” Ben died seven months later, leaving Jacque as the only living descendant of Chester Hogan who was born a Hogan.
Towery’s natural inclination to remain private is balanced against the fact that she’s the last living person with direct knowledge of the Hogan family history, some of it passed through her grandmother, “Mama Hogan,” a stern taskmaster when it came to teaching Jacque how to sew.
Jacque also feels compelled to share the little-told legacy of her father, who at age 13 quit school when Chester, after a bout with depression, committed suicide in 1922, shortly after the family moved to Fort Worth. To support Clara and his siblings, Royal sold editions of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Seventh Street, with Ben helping out after school.
With Jacque’s blessing, husband Robert was writing a book, with a working title of “The Other Mr. Hogan,” when he passed away. A family friend in Austin is finishing the book.
“I know a lot of things that nobody knows,” she says. “I mean, because I was there. We were a very close-knit family. A lot of things have been written about Ben, and a lot of it is wrong.”
Recalling Uncle Ben
Royal Hogan, Jacque says, was a more natural golfer than Ben, who struggled mightily early in his professional career before retooling his grip and swing to overcome his wicked hook.
Royal had a keen business sense, however, and was content to remain an amateur golfer after starting his own business at age 26, during the Great Depression. Eventually, his Hogan Office Supply company became the largest office supplier in Texas.
After Marvin Leonard founded Colonial Country Club in 1936, Ben and Royal bought homes nearby and ultimately helped organize the Colonial Invitational. In addition to his Colonial club championships, Royal won four City of Fort Worth championships.
Hogan Thanksgivings and Christmases were usually spent at Royal’s house, with Ben and Princess and their spouses coming over, as well as Mama Hogan. Jacque says summer vacations usually were spent attending several of Uncle Ben’s PGA Tour events on the East Coast.
Jacque was a senior at Paschal High School when, on Feb. 2, 1949, Ben and Valerie were involved in a horrific auto accident near Van Horn, Texas, that threatened Ben’s life and career.
“My mother called me at school and said, ‘There’s been a terrible accident. Come straight home, and drive very carefully.’”
Naturally, Jacque played golf through the years, just not as successfully as other Hogans. At age 10 or 11, she began practicing diligently. She had not just one but two champion Hogans as teachers. In those days, Colonial’s practice range was not far from the clubhouse.
“Being the only child, I was supposed to have been the one to carry on this tradition,” she says with a chuckle. “Finally one day my uncle turned to me and said, very politely, ‘I think maybe you’d better find something else to do.’
“I said, ‘Oh, thank you so much!’”