Ben Hogan’s “Forgotten Fairways” came alive with the sounds of crazy golf recently. The little 9-hole course is dubbed “the most famous course you’ve never heard of,” but recently it was more hysterical than historical.
The Dublin Historical Society and land owners Clay and Scott Estes opened the gate of the gently rolling pastureland to the third annual Cow Pasture Golf Classic. The pasture’s four-legged residents, mostly mamas and their calves, were welcoming and didn’t seem to mind the intrusion of more than 70 golfers from throughout the state who came to play where Ben Hogan played.
The bovines were also generous with their deposits which offered even more wet hazards than the overflowing stock tank.
The pasture, once the very lively Dublin-DeLeon Golf Course and Country Club, earned its place in history when 17-year-old Ben Hogan returned to his hometown to play a tournament there in 1929. The first place trophy he won that hot August day is on permanent display at the USGA Museum in New Jersey and the victory is considered his final amateur win before he turned professional the following year.
The course closed at the start of WWII and never reopened as a golf course. It has been pasture land for more than half a century.
The annual Cow Pasture event is a fund raiser for the Ben Hogan Museum of Dublin which celebrates the childhood and the career of the man who is widely considered to be the finest ball striker in golf history.
Transforming the working cow pasture into a semi-functional golf course usually takes a few hours because of drought-stunted grass. This spring’s rainfall, however, created such lush growth that volunteers worked three days with shredders, mowers and weed whackers to tame the heavy growth enough to present a workable 9-hole four-person scramble.
Participants are always warned to bring a lot of balls, old clubs and a pasture-worthy vehicle (or horse in some cases). But the most important thing is to leave ego at home and bring a sense of humor instead.
Golfers ranged in age from 14 to 80-plus but age seemed to be no factor in scores. Among the entries were three Fort Worth teams with ties to the Ben Hogan Foundation, including the foundation’s executive director, Robert Stennett.
When all was said and done, some of the perennial participants were taking home the trophies again:
The first place team from the first flight was the Erath County Living Magazine team consisting of Matt Martin, Justin Six, Bo Finley and David Smith. Second place was First National Bank’s team of Andrew Kinzer, David Leatherwood, Mickey Kennedy and Chip Leatherwood. Both teams have placed in previous tournaments.
In the second flight, first place went to the team of John McMackin and Sue Moore of Fort Worth and Harrell Gilbreath and Barry Gilbreath of Granbury. Second place honors went to Larry Weseman of Plano and Paul Grubb of Stephenville.
Even the trophies are unique. Handcrafted by Dublin’s master woodcraftsman Dannis Lozano, the trophies are wooden tees made from a centuries-old oak tree that used to shade the number 6 hole at the course. The tees are topped with a Ben Hogan golf ball, themselves a keepsake because the Hogan balls are no longer manufactured.
In separate competition for “closest to the pin” honors, Matt Parham of Stephenville took home a new Ping putter, along with a Lozano tee trophy. Second place, dubbed “Almost Closest to the Pin,” was won by Bo Finley of the Erath County Living Magazine team. Bo won an “official PGA (Pasture Golf Association) putter made of an engraved twisted mesquite limb from the pasture.
The annual tradition has grown each year, bolstered by journalists from throughout the print and electronic media who are caught up in the novel concept. Even the New York Times gave the event a big plug on Friday before the event, as did Texas Monthly Magazine. It also dominated a story on CyberGolf.com which focused on Hogan venues around the world.
In the past two years, temperatures have been suffocating but this year was “tolerable,” according to most golfers, although while they were on the course, they welcomed “Casper” (the beverage wagon) which toured the course throughout the morning. Golfers were glad to leave the pasture and head downtown to the cool comfort of the Rotary Building where they were served a traditional Texas lunch of barbecue and potato salad from Clay’s Smokehouse, followed by tours of the Hogan Museum across the street.
Corporate sponsors of the event include Clay’s Smokehouse, Dublin Bottling Works, Dr Pepper Snapple, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
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