With a well-used Leica M9 in hand, Carl Alexander walked the fairways at Century Country Club on Monday in the shadow of Ernie Els.
It was a fitting tribute.
The camera belonged to his father, Jules, a renowned gentleman and photographer with an eye for the game who died on Friday at the age of 90 following a fall at his longtime home in Rye.
He leaves behind a legacy that cannot be measured in megapixels.
“Jules was the rare individual that everybody liked,” said fellow Westchester Country Club member Jimmy Roberts, who is an essayist, interviewer and studio host for NBC and Golf Channel. “We all rub somebody the wrong way. Jules was just a sweet man that everybody liked.”
He also happened to produce a portfolio of iconic photographs.
“Professionally, he was talented,” added Roberts, who got a vivid reminder during a recent stay at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel in Scotland. “Carnoustie is where Ben Hogan won his lone Open Championship, so he is regarded there as somewhat of a giant figure. I’m walking through corridors and I’m noticing there are photos of Hogan playing at Winged Foot and Westchester later in his career.
“I know Jules is a worldwide figure in terms of golf and photography, but this really brought it home to me because this was not only a foreign place, but a famous and foreign place. And there was Jules’ work in the lobby.”
Jules Alexander was given a camera by his father at the age of 12 and while a student at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he began photographing the likes of Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington for Down Beat magazine. He served in the Navy Air Corps during World War II, shooting reconnaissance photos from a B-24, then came home and set up shop in Manhattan, doing commercial and fashion work. Alexander met his wife, Danna, when she came to his studio on a modeling assignment.
They were married for 53 years and raised two sons who became successful golf professionals.
Alexander came to Winged Foot in 1959 to shoot the U.S. Open. It was a self-assignment that resulted in a series of iconic photos of Ben Hogan, and that start of a unique friendship between the men.
The collection later became a popular coffee table book, “The Hogan Mystique”.
An image of the nattily-attired Hogan leaning on his putter during a practice round with cigarette in hand became particularly famous. The legendary golfer waited for Alexander to get a shot with a trio of cameras before getting back to the business at hand.
“We had a connection without ever talking,” Alexander recalled during a 2006 interview with The Journal News.
Long before the point-and-shoot age of photography, Alexander captured astronauts, movie stars, athletes and musicians.
“Those were good days, when you had to anticipate and you didn’t see the image on the back of the camera right away,” he said.
Alexander was meticulous with his setup and composition. He also possessed a quick trigger finger.
“Jules is that very rare person who covered all the disciplines in golf photography,” said Martin Davis, a friend and magazine publisher who compiled the content and edited “The Hogan Mystique”, which published in 1994. “He could take scenics. He could do studio work. He could take action. He was excellent in all disciplines and you don’t usually see that.”
For a good shot, Alexander would go anywhere.
He shot Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino all together in Hawaii for a Met Golfer cover. It was the first time anyone in that marquee foursome could remember getting together for a photo. He gave no less attention to lesser subjects.
“I remember the MGA wanted us to do a story on the organization’s president in the mid-80s or so,” Davis said. “He was a Wall Street lawyer. So we get the guy at Old Oaks and he’s sitting in a cart with his blazer on in a very stiff and formal pose. Jules leaned out from under the hood of the camera and in a quiet voice asked, ‘Does he ever smile?’ I told him to get ready. I asked the guy, ‘Do you always pose for pictures with your zipper open?’ He looked down, looked up and smiled for maybe a second. Jules got the photograph.”
Celebrity subjects were just people with interesting stories.
“He was never fazed by them,” said Carl Alexander, who is the director of golf at the Golf Club of Purchase. “We had people like Buzz Aldrin and Jim Brown at the house. It was kind of an interesting time, but my dad taught us a lot about being good to people and sharing your time. I think it’s why he liked golf so much because it provided an opportunity to get to know people.”
Alexander spent countless hours inside the ropes later in his career, shooting the best golfers and courses on the planet.
Many of those images hang in places of honor across the golf world.
So when Carl Alexander needed to escape for a couple of hours Monday, he picked up his dad’s camera and went to Century to play in Els’ charity outing.
“I needed to get away for a little while,” he said. “I shot black and white of Ernie just to keep it going. … I know that my dad will live on through his photographs and in the stories and laughs he enjoyed with so many friends.”
Alexander is survived by his wife, Danna, sons, Paul, who is the director of instruction at Oak Hills Park Golf Club in Norwalk, Conn., and Carl, daughter-in-law Anne, grandsons, Jack and Will, and brother Mordecai.
There will be a private funeral service on Wednesday.
A celebration of Alexander’s life will be held on Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. at Westchester Country Club and is open to the public.