Monday, October 3, 2016
When I walked into the office of Carl Alexander at the Golf Club of Purchase
several years ago, two things stood out to me. One, the rich black and white photographs
of famous golfers that lined the walls. They are breathtaking, classic, and nearly
perfect---taken by one of the world's best photographers.
The other thing that captured my attention was the number of oversized paychecks
tucked away in the corner of it.Those paychecks represented the prize money that
Alexander, the head professional at the prestigious club which is located about a
Bubba Watson drive outside of New York City, has won over his playing career.
Last Thursday, Alexander added another oversized paycheck to his office and honored
the man responsible for all those spectacular photographs hanging on the walls.
Carl's father, Jules Alexander, passed away in August after 90 great years on this earth
and a legacy that will live on forever through the countless lives he touched through
his wonderful photographs.
Playing in his first tournament since his father's passing, Alexander won the Met
Senior PGA event by two strokes, winning the top prize at the Metropolis Country
Club in White Plains.
"I hadn't played a lot of golf since my father's death," said Alexander, "But I felt really
comfortable out there."
Before the tournament, Alexander paid a visit to his mother's home at the Westchester
Country Club and took a momento of his father for the two-day tournament.
"He had a box with a lot of valuable coins. I saw a 1969 silver half-dollar that I took
to the tournament and used as a ball marker," said Alexander. "69 is a good number
In the first round of the tournament, Alexander carded a 69.
"I knew dad was looking down on me, especially after I hit one towards the woods.
It hit a tree and popped back into the fairway," Alexander recalled. "I said, 'Yep,
dad is definitely with me now."
Alexander led by one-stroke after day one of the tournament then came up clutch
late in the second round to win it.
On the par-5 16th hole, Alexander squared up a 4-iron from 197 yards away, knocking
his second shot to within six feet of the hole. He drilled the putt for a spectacular
eagle. Alexander then birdied 17 en route to a 67 and a two-shot victory over Craig
Thomas, who had the advantage of playing on his home course.
"This won was definitely for Jules, " Alexander said. "He taught me how to play
the game and a lot was going through my mind on the course. It's a four and a half-hour
round so I had plenty of time to think of him. The win meant a lot to me."
It was a picture-perfect win for Alexander and one that had to put a big smile on the
face of Jules from up above.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Shortly after informing me I was going to be honored by the New Canaan Old-Timers
association, historian Terry Dinan started waxing poetic on what a great event it
was going to be.
"We are going to have a big crowd, continental breakfast, a luncheon...." he said.
It all sounded great, but I was hoping to hear something else. "And Paul, it's going to
be an awesome time." No that wasn't it.
"That's great, Terry," I said. As I finished that sentence, I realized it wasn't going
to be all that great because I didn't hear what I was hoping for. As I was about to
say good-bye, Terry interjected with excitement in his voice. "And Paul, you're sister,
Kara, is going in with the you."
Strike up the band and pop the champagne! Those 11 words were the sweetest
ones I've heard in a long time. They brought a mile-wide grin to my face as a shot
of adrenaline rushed through my entire body. My sister, Kara, a 3-time All-American
swimmer at New Canaan High School would be joining me on Sunday, September
18 for a celebration I can promise you I will never forget.
To be able to share a day, the stage, and a wonderful honor with my sister is so
special, not to mention really cool. I knew we were going to be on this list of New
Canaan athletes, but to be on it as "Kara and Paul Devlin", is one of the highlights
of my life.
few and far between. Unless, I beat Mick Jagger's record for having a kid past the
age of 73, there probably won't be any more honors coming my way.
And that's ok, because this is just awesome.
I realize it's not like we are going into Cooperstown together, but it's a great honor
and something both of us are extremely happy about it. Devlin & Devlin. That's
pretty damn cool
Kara is one of my heroes. In the pool, she was as fierce a competitor as I've ever
come across in sports. I used to joke with my friends that Kara was so tough, she
eats nails for breakfast. She was driven and had the heart the size of Texas. As a
16-year-old sophomore, Kara posted a time in the 200-meter butterfly that earned
her a world ranking of 16th. No, not in town, county, state, or even the country, but
the entire friggin' world. I was so proud of that.
I'm not sure Kara was, though. She was so humble and never talked about her
many impressive accomplishments. Being boastful wasn't part of her DNA.
Chuck Warner, her longtime swim coach, was quoted in a local paper saying,
"Kara is like a country club swimmer. She dives in the water. Beats the hell out of
everybody. And then just goes home."
In this country, swimmers really only get appreciated once every four years with
the Olympics. I appreciated, admired, and respected my sister every single day after
seeing how dedicated and committed she was. She'd rise at 4:45 every morning,
eat breakfast, and then get driven by our mother 30 minutes away to swim practice.
She'd pound out a 5,000 meter workout in the morning, eat a snack on the way to
school, then do it again after the final bell sounded. I'd pick her up after evening
practice and seemed never seemed to be exhausted and never complained about
being tired. That was my kid sister.
After earning two consecutive Connecticut swimmer of the year honors, Kara was
recruited by nearly every major swimming program in the country. I was at the
University of North Carolina playing baseball when she came down on a recruiting
trip with the Tar Heels. Selfishly, I wanted my kid sister to join me in Chapel Hill.
That would've been an awesome experience. However, my parents and I wanted
it to be her decision. It was her life, her career. We wanted her to do what she
wanted to do and not be influenced by us.
Kara chose to go to the University of Florida, which at the time, was the top-ranked
program in the country. She wanted to be pushed hard by the coaches to see how just
how great she could be. Part of me was upset that we couldn't support and be there
for each other in Chapel Hill, but that's just life, I guess. I was happy she made
the choice on her own and was following her dream.
Kara earned All-America honors at Florida during her freshman year before
transferring to USC where she duplicated the feat. That was a great accomplishment.
I'm even more proud of my sister for the person she became after her swimming
career ended. Kara is a wonderful mother to four great children and a wonderful wife
to her husband, Chad. She is so loving, giving, and unselfish. Blessed with our late
father's sense of humor and our mother's heart of gold, Kara has always been a
magnet, drawing people to her in a very special way.
in Santa Barbara, CA., brother Paul in Norwalk, CT.) she has been a rock for me and
one my biggest supporters. She was always there for me during some times in life
and, of course. when I attempted to become an Ironman. Kara was always sending
me articles and videos for motivation, while getting me on a diet and training plan
so I'd be at my the best for the grueling 140.6 mile race.
A day didn't go by where I didn't have an email from her on my computer. There
would always be some words of encouragement, a motivational speech, or a "get-
your-ass-pumped-for the race" music video.
That is Kara. So thoughtful, so inspirational, and really so wonderful. I have been lucky
to experience a lot of great things in my athletic career. I had the chance to represent my
country on a baseball tour of Taiwan. I got to fulfill my dream of signing a professional
contract. And, oh yeah, there was that "Bull Durham" thing.
However, my greatest honor comes Sunday when my great sister, Kara , and I will
be honored together in New Canaan. That is going to be special---really, really special.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Someone on Facebook responded to a post I made concerning Colin Kaepernick and
his decision to sit during the national anthem before NFL games with the San Francisco 49ers:
"When it's all said and done, Kaepernick's protest will accomplish nothing."
My response was simple: It already has.
The veteran quarterback ignited a firestorm that mushroomed into a towering inferno,
causing heated debates about the American flag, national anthem, patriotism, oppression,
freedom, racism, and law enforcement.
And you know what? That's a damn good thing for a lot of different reasons.
Oh, sure, when news first broke of Kaepernick dissing the national anthem, America
did what it does best: it went bat shit-crazy, overreacting, and talking stupid. That
can happen when the knee-jerk reaction is strong enough to split the uprights with
a football from 95 yards away.
My goodness. Some people act like Kaepernick committed mass murder, jeopardized
national security, or bilked the country out of its lifetime savings.
Many people wondered how Kaepernick can cry about oppression when he lives
in a country that's afforded him the opportunity to make 19 million dollars a year
slinging a football around. I believe they got that part wrong because Kaepernick
made it clear he is standing up for others who are being oppressed, not him.
Kaepernick was blistered for disrespecting every person who fought for this
country and protecting our freedom, which actually gives everybody the right to
protest and criticize those who do.
Stan VanDriver, a 12-year Navy veteran, told USA Today, "I and other veterans
fought so he could have his freedom of speech rights, so that all Americans can
have the right to free speech, the right to protest."
This from a person that actually fought for the country, the flag, for you and me.
Do you respect his opinion?
All of these issues needed be talked about and discussed. And everyone's
talking about them from legends and social activists Jim Brown and Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar to military veterans, law enforcement officials, and just about
every athlete in the sports world has weighed in on the subject, as well.
And that is truly a great thing.
Many people think Kaepernick snubbed his nose at the American flag, national
anthem, and patriotism when he chose to stay on the bench while everyone else
saluted them. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said the protest was actually very patriotic.
People have different views on it, which again, is their right.
The outrage touched off by Kaepernick has actually shed more light on what
many African-Americans have had to endure in their lives and that flag and song,
no matter how beautiful and sacred it is to most, represents something completely
different to others, including Jackie Robinson, who faced more obstacles than
any athlete in the history of sports.
In his autobiography, Robinson wrote:
"I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am
a black man in a white world."
Whoa! I had never heard that before. That's from the immortal Jackie Robinson and
a history lesson right there. So, if you hate Colin Kaepernick then you must also hate
Jackie Robinson, right? I don't think many are willing to crush the legacy of 42, that's
If you despise Kaepernick, then shouldn't you also despise the late Muhammad Ali
for refusing to fight for the country after being drafted? Just about everybody admired
Ali for "taking a stand", albeit years after Ali became a true legend. So, why are we
vilifying Kaepernick for what he did?
I am quite certain that for all their love Americans have for the national anthem, flag,
and country, most do not know all the lyrics to the song or understand what the 13 stripes
on Old Glory represent.
After Kaeperick's protest, I am thinking most Americans will become more attentive
when the national anthem is being played and that flag is unfurled. They will make
damn sure they know all the words and become better educated on what every stripe,
star, and color of the flag represents. Going to the bathroom while the Star
Spangled Banner plays at a sporting event will no longer be considered.
On Memorial Day weekend next year, perhaps, people will stick around for a
parade and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, even thanking a veteran
for their service, instead of bolting to the Hamptons for a barbeque.
And that would be a great thing.
Some people had a problem with the method by which Kaepernick tried to send
his message. But what was he supposed to do to get everybody's attention? Tweet
something out? Post it on Facebook? Give me a break. He went big and bold and
got the world talking.
Perhaps, with Kaepernick's protest and the debates that follow, we will get a better
idea of what comes with all the rights the founding fathers crafted and every
member of the military fought so hard to maintain. And what true freedom actually
Freedom of speech is a powerful thing. So is the freedom to protest. I have the right
to put my thoughts down in a blog, you have the right to bash them. Whatever the
case, we have been given the right to do both.
Kaepernick may have cost himself friends, a fistful of dollars, and eventually, a
football career, but he may have done something positive that most of us may not
understand for quite a while.
He has forced us to think, debate, and perhaps, even sympathize. It may have
come at a great cost, but I believe this country really needed it.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Jules Alexander's career was defined by the iconic photographs he took of golf
legend, Ben Hogan. They helped him become a bit of a rock star in the golf industry
where he cultivated friendships with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and
even Hogan himself.
While his photographs of Hogan earned him a name in the sport, it was Alexander's
generosity with his wonderful gift that revealed a large part of his character. The
Bronx native, who died on August 19, was Santa Claus with a camera, showering
his friends with family photographs capturing moments that were both magical and
Alexander never asked for a thing in a return, nor would he charge his friends for
photographs. And he and his family had many friends--more than you could possibly
know or even count. If you were lucky enough to have caught the keen and creative
eye of Alexander, then you probably received something that could only be categorized
I was luckier than most.
I grew up as a childhood friend to Alexander's sons, Paul and Carl. We did everything
together, playing Little League, Pee Wee football, golf, and just about anything else
little kids did back then. Our families became best friends and Jules was always there
to capture moments the Devlin's will never forget.
I am so grateful to have known Jules.
Jules Alexander documented a big part of my life with his signature photographs,
always rich in black and white, capturing the raw emotion in a way that only Jules
could. I have posted many of those photographs on Facebook for all to see and I often
get comments like, "Wow, it must've been nice to have your parents pay for a
photographer to be at all your games."
My parents never paid anyone to take pictures of me playing a game. Ever. Jules
did it because he loved doing it and was so good at it, none of us ever knew he was at
the games taking photographs. Jules Alexander was just that good.
In the fall of 2002, I was home from Atlanta visiting my father, who started to have
some health issues. We were playing a round of golf with Jules like we did so many
times over the years. When we got to the 12th hole at Westchester County Club,
Jules took out his camera and said, "I have the perfect shot that I want to take."
There was another foursome finishing the previous hole and there wasn't exactly
enough time to do a full-fledged photo shoot. Jules didn't need it because he had
picture the shot in his mind long before we arrived at the tee box.
When he presented the photograph to us several months later, we were speechless,
breathless, and forever grateful. It was amazing.
No one could possibly have captured the love between and a father and son like
Jules. The picture is worth far more than 1,000 words and one I will cherish forever.
When I attended the 90th birthday party of Jules in early June, I shared a moment
with him in his studio which was lined with some of the most beautiful photographs
man has ever laid eyes on.
I said to Jules, "That photograph you took of my Dad and I is the greatest gift that
I've ever received." That wasn't hyperbole, but fact. No material thing or amount of
money is worth more to me than that photo of my father and I. It captured the total
essence of the relationship and friendship I had with my father, perfectly.
Jules Alexander died less than two months later. I am so glad I got the chance to
tell him that how much that photograph meant to me. It is truly special.
That was the beauty and greatness of Jules Alexander. Nobody could do with a
camera what he did. Nobody. And he shared his wonderful gift with all his friends,
never charging a cent for photographs that were so special.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Jules Alexander passed away peacefully Friday morning August 19, 2016.
It marked the end of an truly incredible life that was rich with an amazing family,
countless friends, and almost universal love and respect.
times, and a legacy fortified by the keen eye of a photographer who captured moments
that became indelible ones in the lives of so many, including my own.
Alexander had a personality as unique as his first name. He was thoughtful, measured,
loyal, honorable, and blessed with a gift for not only taking pictures, but telling stories
in a way that not only made people laugh, but left them feeling better about themselves.
The Bronx native photographed everyone from John F. Kennedy to Muhammad Ali.
In between there was Frank Sinatra, Christie Brinkley, and a young Mike Tyson.
However, it was his spectacular pictures of golf legend Ben Hogan that helped
Alexander gain fame within both the photography and golf industries.
In 1959, Alexander, made the short journey to the Winged Foot Golf Club to
photograph Hogan. Alexander was fascinated with just about everything the legendary
He studied his swing, how Hogan stood, the way he dressed, and even the way he
took a drag off his cigarette. Alexander would build a collection of Hogan photos
like the tradition of the Masters: unlike any other.
It was pure gold and nearly every golfer on the PGA Tour would flock to
Alexander's home which sat at the end of the driving range of the Westchester
Country Club. They wanted to see the perfect pictures of the golf legend who
possessed a near perfect swing.
He became friends with Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Player, Mickelson, and
just about every other big name in the game of golf. But Alexander's named carried
a lot of weight, as well. Say the name, "Jules" and everyone in the industry
knew who you were talking about.
Alexander's first name was Jules, but to nearly everyone at his home course
at the Westchester Country Club, he was the "Hawk", which was the nickname
of his hero, Ben Hogan. When he played, Alexander dressed a lot like Hogan,
right down to the white hat Hogan used to wear.
Jules played the game with style, a little flair, and the laser-like focus of Hogan.
He loved the game dearly, had fun with it, and was damn good, always
carrying a handicap in the single digits. And anybody who played a round with
Jules was always a little disappointed that it had to end after 18 holes.
Alexander also got paid to travel the world to shoot amazing holes on the
best golf courses ever built. They would be turned into spectacular calendars that
always seemed to show up in the hands of all of his friends.
His best friends in life were his wife, Danna, a former model, who could deftly
handle Jules and his big personality like no one else. She is brilliant, kind, and
magnificent. She was the perfect partner for Jules during their more than 50 years
Then there is Paul and Carl, the sons who made golf into careers as professionals,
presiding over two of the most prestigious country clubs in New York, located
within a Bubba Watson drive of where they grew up.
Jules, Paul, and Carl were as close as any father and sons could possibly be. The
kids worshipped Jules, who got to see, play with, and photograph them as they
grew into spectacular golfers known by just about everyone in the industry along
the Eastern seaboard.
I was best friends with Paul and Carl growing up. We spent countless days playing
baseball, golf, and just about everything else kids did to pass the time. Jules was
seemingly always there with camera in hand. From Little League, Pop Warner
football, to the golf course, Jules took incredible pictures and gave them to
the family, never asking for, or expecting anything in return.
In June, many of Jules' good friends gathered at his home to celebrate his 90th
birthday. There were great pictures, even better stories, and that laugh from Jules
that we all loved and could never forget.
Sadly, it turned out to be a good-bye for many people, the last time they would
see or talk to Jules. I have known Jules since I was 7-years-old. He was family
and a big part of my life as well as the rest of the Devlin clan.
Jules took his last breath Friday morning, putting the period on the story of an
incredible life well-lived.
I will miss Jules. Countless other people will, too. There was nobody like him. Nobody.
Rest in peace, Jules, everybody loved you.