Hogan's old friends and fans mobbed him throughout the filming. "I said to myself, 'So this is why he doesn't like to travel,' " Ostrey recalls. "I tried to protect him.... I was his valet for four days, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Hogan and Ostrey drank "clear ones"—vodka drinks—in the Wilshire Hotel bar at the end of each day. "He talked about everything: the story of his life, how the Tour got started, how people have used him, and what he thinks of golf today," Ostrey says. "It was fascinating. Ben said his father taught him to stand on his own and that any job is better than no job. After several, several drinks, he said Snead was the best swinger he ever saw, and that if Sam had had half a brain he would have beaten everyone."
Hogan drank his vodka and tonic or his martini and added his smoke to the smoky air. "He said marketers and logos are defacing the game," Ostrey remembers. "He talked about his dislike for pros who play for second or for 10th. 'Players today are not hungry,' he said. 'They're robbing the people who pay to watch them.' "
A few months after the sentimental journey to Riviera, Hogan almost died. His appendix ruptured, spewing poison throughout his body. He spent two months in Harris Hospital in Fort Worth and lost 30 pounds. Collectors of Hogan memorabilia found it much easier to get his signature on a photograph or a magazine cover after this illness. A reporter asked him if the brush with death had changed him, "mellowed" him. "I don't think so," Hogan said. "I'm the same person I think I've always been. People may have misinterpreted on occasion. They probably did."
Although still a bit shaky from his illness and from nicotine withdrawal—his doctor's orders to quit smoking had been very firm—Hogan went to New York in 1988 for the Centennial of Golf. A golfer of the century would be named at the dinner, and those in the know said the winner would be either Hogan or Nicklaus. Every big name in golf attended. Ostrey and a handful of Hogan Company executives accompanied their boss.
"He walked into the cocktail party before the dinner, and I've never seen a room go quiet like that," Ostrey recalls. "Cameras were going off and glaring so badly you couldn't see."
Snead, Nicklaus and Palmer were in the room, but suddenly scores of people joined the photographers encircling Hogan. Ostrey protectively steered Ben and Valerie to a table and stationed his lieutenants around it. Like doormen at a popular nightclub, Hogan's men let Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and others inside the circle one at a time.
The scene was repeated at the dinner. A line of well-wishers and would-you-please-sign-this-Mr. Hogans formed at his table. "He gets irritated with that after a while, so I went and got him," Ostrey says. "I took him to the men's room, and he says, 'Stay here and watch the door. I need a smoke.' He didn't want Valerie to find out."
Nicklaus won the golfer of the century award, incidentally, and Hogan went back to his cigarettes.
Hogan played his last 18-hole round in 1980 at Seminole. The love of his life—hitting golf balls—left him slowly and steadily after that. Sometime near the end of the decade, Ben Hogan swung at a ball for the last time. With the pain of osteoarthritis—and his lifelong penchant for doing things over and over—the shower at 2 o'clock became an hourlong, daily ritual. After he dried off, the locker room attendant rubbed Hogan's back and left shoulder with three kinds of liniment. The lunch routine seemed to change, too. Stories leaked out of Shady Oaks that Hogan was drinking too much. Most of the time he drank no more than before, but his tolerance for alcohol had diminished. Concurrent with the ill effects of booze came a fairly rapid drop-off in his memory and, occasionally, other symptoms that suggested a deterioration of his mental faculties. Finally, he became totally dependent on Valerie, a turn of events she found to be nearly overwhelming.