Old age inflicts indignities great and small on anyone lucky enough to experience it. What has happened to Ben Hogan's health is not unusual. So the decline in his mental acuity should be considered a postscript. He deserves to be remembered at his best.
Even as his vigor declined, he still was a man of obvious power. You could see it on a drizzly day in January 1990, when Snead, Gene Sarazen, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Bob Toski, Billy Casper, Gene Littler, Doug Ford and Orville Moody joined Hogan for a photo shoot at Shady Oaks. A company in Japan had had an idea to build a golf course on Guam called the Legends and thus needed a set of golf-legend endorsers. Hogan agreed to the $10,000-a-man boondoggle because he wouldn't have to travel and it would allow him to see old friends. But the old friends talked about him more than with him.
Snead and Chi Chi observed Hogan's lighting a cigarette with the butt of another.
"He's always done that," Snead said.
"And he doesn't have any emphysema?" Rodriguez asked.
"All I want is one picture with Hogan," Toski said.
Snead, whispering, added, "I bet you five dollars he never goes to Guam."
The photography proceeded at Hogan's pace. Several times the other eight were in place, the lights were right, the cameras focused, and...no Hogan. Then he would take his place and smile, still the most photogenic man in the room.
The next day he was back in his seat by the window, a cigarette in his left hand, a drink in the right.
What was he thinking? It was impossible to know and impossible not to wonder.