Profile of Golfer Fred Hawkins

Fred Hawkins was a solid competitor on the PGA Tour in the 1950s and 1960s whose talent never squared, his peers thought, with his number of victories: just one win on the tour. But he was on leaderboards often, came close in majors and did play in the Ryder Cup, and piled up a large number of second-place finishes. In fact, Hawkins was runner-up in Arnold Palmer's first major victory, in Ben Hogan's final win and in the first-ever win by a lefthander on the PGA Tour.

Full name: Frederick Eugene Hawkins

Date of birth: September 3, 1923

Place of birth: Antioch, Illinois

Date and place of death: December 6, 2014, in Sebring, Florida

His Biggest Wins

Fred Hawkins had one win in an official PGA Tour tournament:
  • 1956 Oklahoma City Open
He had several other victories off the tour, including:
  • 1950 Cavalier Specialists Invitational
  • 1952 Texas PGA Championship
  • 1953 Texas PGA Championship
  • 1958 Jackson Open
  • 1961 New Mexico Open
His biggest win in the amateur ranks was the 1947 Midwest Amateur.

In the Majors

Hawkins never won a major, but he did have nine Top 10 finishes including runner-up in the 1958 Masters. In fact, he finished in the Top 10 in nine out of the 21 majors he played from 1951 through 1960.

That 1958 Masters is famous as the site of Arnold Palmer's first major championship victory, as the Masters in which the terms "Amen Corner" and "Arnie's Army" were coined, and for a rules controversy involving Palmer.

After a 68 in the third round, Hawkins was tied for eighth place, three off the lead of Palmer and Sam Snead. Hawkins carded a 71 in the final round that left him tied for second, one behind the champion, Palmer.

But Hawkins was right there at the end with a chance. And he was strong down the stretch, birdying the 15th and 17th holes.

The rules controversy happened on the 12th hole, when Palmer's tee shot plugged into soft ground behind the par-3 green. Palmer thought he deserved relief for an embedded ball, but the rules official on the scene said no. So Palmer first played the ball as it lay and made a double-bogey 5. Then he dropped a second ball at the spot and made a par-3 with that ball. It was up to the Masters rules committee to decide which ball counted — and it ruled in Palmer's favor.

Decades later, Hawkins explained: "On the scoreboard, they posted the five temporarily. Doug (Ford), who was the defending champion, and I were playing together. When we came up onto 17 we thought we were tied with Arnold. But in actuality Doug was one back, and I was two. I made birdie to tie Doug, and we finished tied for second."

Hawkins had a birdie putt on the final hole that would have tied Palmer, but he missed the 16-footer.

Hawkins first appeared in a major at the 1948 U.S. Open, and last in the 1963 U.S. Open. He also placed in the Top 10 in the 1951 and 1957 U.S. Opens (tied 6th in both); in The Masters in 1952 (t7), 1953 (t10) and 1959 (7th); and in the PGA Championship in 1956 and 1957 (beaten in quarterfinals both years) plus 1960 (t10).

More About Fred Hawkins

"One of the fine players in golf is Fred Hawkins, a good buddy of mine and an oustanding pro," Arnold Palmer wrote in the chapter on "The Mental Approach to Golf" in his 1961 book, Hit It Hard! (affiliate link).

Palmer explained a few of the near-misses Hawkins had suffered attempting to achieve a victory on the PGA Tour, including when Palmer beat him in the 1958 Masters and again in the 1960 Desert Classic.

"Despite all this," Palmer continued, "Fred has never been discouraged. He keeps working on his game and has high hopes of becoming a consistent winner some day. He is getting a lot of satisfaction from the good parts of his game, even though the frustration of not winning could easily get him down. Attitude means everything in golf. It's the only thing that keeps you from quitting altogether when things are going bad."

An Illinois native, Hawkins switched from the University of Illinois to the school now known as the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) during the mid-1940s. He was associated with El Paso for many years after, living and working there during most of his playing career.

After winning the Midwest Amateur in 1947, Hawkins turned pro. He got into his first PGA Tour events that year.

In 1948, Hawkins went full-time on the tour, making 25 starts. He made 24 cuts but had no top 10s.

After two Top 10s on tour in 1949, things started heating up for him. He had first of his many second-place finishes in 1950, and off the tour won Cavalier Specialists Invitational, which attracted many PGA players.

Hawkins won the Texas PGA Championship back-to-back in 1952-53, the second year beating runner-up Byron Nelson by a stroke.

And on the PGA Tour, he was an established player who frequently appeared on leaderboards. (He even chaired the PGA Tournament Committee for two years beginning in 1955.) But Hawkins was still looking for a PGA Tour victory.

It finally happened for him in the 1956 Oklahoma City Open. Hawkins made four birdies over the final nine, including birdies on the 70th and 71st holes, both achieved on putts of around 40 feet. He beat runner-up Gardner Dickinson by two strokes.

It was a strong year overall for Hawkins, who also finished second in the Baton Rouge Open, Kansas City Open and the high-dollar World Championship of Golf. Hawkins finished fourth on the PGA Tour money list for 1956, his only finish inside the Top 10.

On the strength of that season, Hawkins earned a place on Team USA for the 1957 Ryder Cup. As just a one-time winner, Hawkins didn't get a lot of respect going into the competition from the British side. Peter Alliss once wrote that the word going into the tournament was that Hawkins "couldn't play" and was a player the British side would probably beat.

The Great Britain team did win, its first win since 1933, and its last win until the expanded Team Europe won the 1985 Ryder Cup. But Hawkins proved the whispers wrong. Although Hawkins and partner Art Wall lost (to Ken Bousfield/Dai Rees) their foursomes match, Hawkins was the only American to win in singles. And who did he beat? Peter Alliss, by a 2 and 1 score.

Hawkins' next, best chance at another PGA Tour victory was in the 1959 Colonial National Invitation. Hawkins trailed Ben Hogan, who'd already won Colonial four times, by a stroke entering the final round. But he shot 71 to Hogan's 72 to tie. (Both had chances to win on the final hole, but Hawkins bogeyed and Hogan missed a 2½-foot putt.) So they played an 18-hole playoff for the title. And Hogan won it with a 69 to Hawkins' 73. It was Hogan's 64th and, it turned out, last win on the PGA Tour.

Hawkins' number of tournaments began dropping in the mid-1960s. In 1967 entered just one, and the 1969 Western Open was his final start on the PGA Tour. According to official PGA Tour stats, Hawkins finished with 459 career starts. In addition to the one victory, he had 18 second-place finishes, 10 thirds, 47 Top 5 finishes and 99 Top 10 placings.

Eighteen runner-up finishes in an extraordinary number for a golfer with just one career victory. And it helps explain this stat: From 1947 through 1962 on the PGA Tour, Hawkins' career-earnings ranked 16th-best on tour.

What about all those second-place finishes? His first was in the 1950 Inverness Four-Ball, where Hawkins partnered with Fred Haas to come second to Sam Snead/Jim Ferrier. He was second three times in 1951, including by one stroke to Lloyd Mandrum in the St. Paul Open. And Hawkins was second in the 1951 Canadian Open, perhaps his biggest near-miss aside from those already mentioned.

His runner-up showings continued through the 1950s and into the 1960s. He was second by one to Palmer in the 1958 St. Petersburg Open Invitational, and by one to Dutch Harrison in the 1958 Tijuana Open. Palmer got him again in the 1960 Palm Springs Desert Classic, the very first time that tournament (still being played on the PGA Tour in the 2020s) took place.

The last of Hawkins' 18 bridesmaid showings was in the 1963 Houston Classic, where he lost by one stroke to Bob Charles. Charles thus became the first left-handed golfer ever to win on the PGA Tour.

Hawkins was 57 years old when the PGA Senior Tour launched in 1980. He made 247 starts on the senior circuit with no wins or runners-up. He had seven Top 10s, including a pair of third-place finishes as his best showings. He did win the Florida Senior Open in 1983, but that was not a Senior Tour event. Hawkins' final start on the Champions Tour was in 1999 at the age of 76.

During most of his time on the PGA Tour, Hawkins was the head professional at El Paso Country Club. After leaving the tour in the mid-1960s, Hawkins moved on to a more-prestigious location: From 1967-72, he was head pro at a major-championship venue, Chicago's Olympia Fields.

Hawkins eventually retired to Florida, but he enjoyed returning home to Illinois every summer. He and his older brother, Charlie, also a very fine golfer, played together nearly every day into their 80s during those summers, each almost always shooting his age. And they enjoyed taking on anyone who wanted to challenge them in gambling matches.

Hawkins was 91 years old when he died in 2014.

Hawkins wrote the chapter on "Playing the Woods From Sand" in the 1960 book, Golf Magazine's Pro Pointers and Stroke Savers (affiliate link). He is a member of the El Paso Golf Hall of Fame.

He also played a very minor role in the career of Lee Trevino. When Hawkins was the pro at El Paso Country Club, he took part in many big gambling matches in which wealthy businessmen backed various golfers. One of the golfers who kept losing to Hawkins decided to scour Texas for a ringer. Someone suggested a young Dallas pro named Lee Trevino, and Trevino went to El Paso to play in the matches. One of the participants in the matches estimated that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" changed hands after Trevino joined the fray. And Trevino wound up staying in El Paso, his final stop before he joined the PGA Tour a couple years later.

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Alliss, Peter. The Who's Who of Golf, 1983, Orbis Publishing.
Associated Press. "Hawkins Gets Chicago Post," New York Times, May 14, 1967.
Brenner, Morgan. The Majors of Golf, Volume 3, 2009, McFarland and Company.
D'Amato, Gary. "Fred Hawkins, who played on PGA Tour, dies at 91," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 23, 2014.
Elliott, Len, and Kelly, Barbara. Who's Who in Golf, 1976, Arlington House Publishers.
Gettysburg Times. "Sports In Brief," Associated Press, March 3, 1958.
Gibson, Nevin H. The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1964, A.S. Barnes and Company.
Golfdom Magazine. "Haas joins Golfcraft ranks," Fall 1947.
Golfdom Magazine. "Palmer overtakes Middlecoff in post-war dollar derby," February 1963.
Lemon, Del. The Story of Golf in Oklahoma, 2001, University of Oklahoma Press.
Nelson, Jim. "Tour vet Hawkins back in Waterloo," Cedar Falls Courier, July 23, 2001.
New Mexico Golf News. "How N.M., El Paso Helped Lee Trevino Get to the PGA Tour," June 8, 2022,
Palmer, Arnold. Arnold Palmer's Golf Book: Hit It Hard!, Ronald Sports Library, 1961, The Ronald Press Company. Players, "Fred Hawkins,"
Scharff, Robert. Golf Magazine's The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1970, Harper and Row.
Steel, Donald, and Ryde, Peter. The Encyclopedia of Golf, 1975, The Viking Press.
United Press International. "Hawkins, Hawk meet," El Paso Times, May 4, 1959.
Wind, Herbert Warren. Herbert Warren Wind's Golf Book, 1971, Simon and Schuster.

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