2019 Champions Dinner yields Ben Hogan stories
Since Fred Couples attended his first Champions Dinner in 1993, many aspects have changed.
The menu is altered each April. New faces come. Old faces go. But there always seems to be one constant.
“We always leave by 9 o’clock,” Couples said. “I told (girlfriend) Suzanne (Radcliffe) before I left, ‘Pick me up at 9 p.m. sharp. I’ll be ready to go.’”
As 9 p.m. approached, Ben Crenshaw – who moderates the evening – announced that dinner was adjourned unless anyone had final thoughts. Moments later, 90-year-old Bob Goalby rose from his chair.
“When he stands up, the room gets quiet fast,” Bubba Watson said. “Now I can’t tell you his joke, but Bob Goalby pulled one out of the hat.”
The exact words of Goalby’s moment remain as mysterious as the person it involved: Ben Hogan. As laughter echoed throughout the second floor of Augusta National’s clubhouse, the Hogan-story floodgates opened.
Before long, the evening stretched beyond 9 p.m., and Hogan stories kept coming.
“They told some pretty good stuff on Mr. Hogan last night,” 1979 champion Fuzzy Zoeller said. “I gotta admit it was good. Stuff that you don’t hear.”
Larry Mize, the 1987 champ whose middle name is Hogan, said, “The stories seem to get better and better each year. Hogan was Hogan. I wish I had known him.”
Last year’s winner, Patrick Reed, hosted the dinner, serving bone-in cowboy ribeye along with two salad options and a number of sides. He confirmed that “the guys left full.”
“Being my first time, I can’t divulge the (Hogan stories),” Reed said. “But they were unbelievable.”
Charles Coody, the 1971 Masters winner, said numerous champions shared thoughts on Hogan, including Gary Player. According to Player's story, Hogan was not enthused about signing autographs at the Champions Dinner and wasn’t afraid to let his table company know.
“Gary Player told a story about Hogan, when another person at dinner had passed something around for everyone to sign,” Coody said. “Hogan looked at him and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ I got a kick out of that one.”
Eventually, as the clock reached 9:30 p.m., the Hogan tributes ended. Dinner was adjourned.
“When people get to telling Hogan stories, one thing leads to another,” Coody said. “Unfortunately, the night can only last so long.”