Bill Nichols

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fan to attend 60th straight Colonial

FORT WORTH _ Frank Holbrook was never big on playing golf. He wasn’t even a fan when, as a freshman in college, he attended his first tournament in 1952. 

He just wanted to see what all the fuss was about concerning Ben Hogan.

``To watch Ben Hogan play golf at Colonial was like going to church on Sunday and actually seeing Christ there,’’ Holbrook said.

His Colonial debut turned out to be epic. Hogan overcame a six-stroke deficit to claim his third Colonial title. He hit every green in regulation while shooting a final-round 67, and then donned the first ceremonial plaid jacket.

Hogan went on to win a record five Colonials. Holbrook went on to 59 straight Colonials.

The ``semi-retired’’ lawyer from Harker Heights, near Killeen, plans to attend his 60th consecutive this week. It just happens to be the 75th anniversary of Colonial Country Club and its 65th invitational.

``I’m going to make 60 for sure,’’ Holbrook, 76, said by phone Sunday night. ``After that, I don’t know.’’

Holbrook’s streak is magnified by logistics. Fort Worth is about 140 miles from his home.  

Getting to the tournament has always been the most difficult part of his quest. He never lived in Fort Worth and has no connection to the event or club. And if he is seeking publicity, then he has been awfully quiet about his streak.

He seemed surprised when his wife, Yvonne, told him a reporter was on the phone. If not for an email from his friend and business associate, Shawn Trainum, then Holbrook’s 60th might have gone unnoticed.

``He mentioned this to me the other day and I was shocked that he has been so diligent in his attendance to the tournament,’’ Trainum said. ``I guess he enjoys his golfing events much more than I had ever known.’’

 Holbrook, a native of Wichita Falls, spent most of his childhood in Sweetwater, where his father worked for Lone Star Gas. He spent one year at what was then called Arlington State before attending Texas A&M.

``Probably the hardest time I had getting to the tournament was when I was at A&M,’’ he said. ``In those days, boys didn’t have cars like they do now. I’d have to find somebody who was going to Fort Worth, and catch a ride.’’

Holbrook’s memory contains clips of Hall of Famers such as Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Lloyd Mangrum, Julius Boros, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw. He has seen the course yield its highest and lowest winning scores, respectively, in his first and last Colonials _ 285 by Hogan in 1959 and 259 by Zach Johnson last year.

Holbrook walked in the fairways with legendary players before crowds were held back by ropes. He was there in 1997 for Tiger Woods’ only appearance.

``When Tiger played, you had to get two holes ahead and wait,’’ he said. ``People followed him like they did Ben Hogan.’’    

Holbrook has no special ceremony in store for his 60th anniversary. A pinched sciatic nerve has limited his walking.

So he plans to spend most of his time in the grandstands by the fifth green, where he can see tee shots on Nos. 3, 6 and 8, and approach shots to 5 and 7.

``It’s a great course to watch golf,’’ Holbrook said. ``That’s why I love going. I’d like to be buried by the 12th green. It’s really peaceful over there by the river.’’

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