The Westchester golf world lost one of its brightest lights recently when celebrated photographer Jules Alexander passed away in his sleep at White Plains hospital after suffering a late-night fall in his home in Rye. Alexander, a long-time member of Westchester Country Club, was best-known for his close relationship with Ben Hogan, whom he first photographed at Winged Foot during the 1959 U.S. Open.
Alexander’s photos captured not just the image of golf’s greatest players, but their humanity as well. I first met him in 2008 at his home not far from the Westchester CC practice range, when he was getting ready to publish Tiger Woods: In Black and White. At the time, he was generously sharing with Westchester magazine one of the many photos he’d taken of Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, where his son, Paul, was the head professional.
“Want to see something special?” he asked me. I eagerly nodded, so he pulled out a proof copy of the Woods book, and I was stricken speechless by the absolutely original imagery. Jules saw Tiger Woods differently from you and me. He captured the man on the course, musculature perfectly defined, eyes fiercely concentrated on the target, mind fully focused on the moment. This was pre-scandal Tiger, and Alexander had photographed him at what was probably the peak of his career.
Jules didn’t begin as a golf photographer. At the age of 15, he was shooting jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra for Down Beat magazine. After serving as an aerial reconnaissance photographer in World War II, he returned home to create a successful career as an advertising and fashion photographer in New York City. His shots of Hogan were “self-assigned,” almost as a lark, but they led to creation of a body of work that today can be found hanging in homes and clubhouses around the world, not to mention the World Golf Hall of Fame. And in 1999, the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association honored Alexander with the Linc Werden Award for outstanding contributions to golf journalism.
His photographs may have made him famous, but friends knew Alexander as an accomplished raconteur as well. He could be found almost daily in the grill room at Westchester CC regaling them with stories about the greats and near-greats he had photographed.
Eventually, his two sons picked up their father’s love of golf and built careers in the game themselves. Paul is now the director of instruction at Oak Hills Park Golf Club in Norwalk, CT, and Carl is the director of golf at the Golf Club of Purchase.
Alexander will be laid to rest today during a private funeral service.