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L E’s Stories – “The Wee Iceman From Cowtown” – Salute To Golf Legend Ben Hogan

Our Bone Daddy, the original Sportsphile was born in 1947 in Ft. Worth, Texas….which is better known as “Cowtown”…..as a result of the huge operation of the Ft. Worth Stockyards….and the equally large Swift meat processing plant….which was a place that most cattle from ranches all over Texas would end up at to be processed into steaks and meat that would end up at “dinner tables” all over Texas and the country….thus the moniker of “Cowtown USA”.  By the time that BD had turned 5 years old….which was just before he moved with his family to Midland, Texas….as a result of Pops (BD’s Dad) becoming the pilot for Dwight Hedrick, a very wealthy Texas oilman….to become an integral part of the “West Texas oil boom”…..and by this time, BD already knew who golfer Ben Hogan was….for he was already a celebrated “homeboy” from the Ft. Worth area…..who was already a nine time major PGA tournament winner…..with 2 x Masters Championships…..2 x PGA Championships….4 x US Open Championships…. and one Brittish Open Championships under his belt…..as Ben Hogan literally dominated the PGA Tour throughout the from 1940 to 1953 by being the leading money winner in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946 and 1948…..while being selected PGA Player of the Year in 1948, 1950, 1951 and 1953…..plus winning the Vardon Trophy, as leader in scoring average, in 1940, 1941 and 1948…..and being voted Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1953…..as BD literally spent his first 6 years on this Earth with “homeboy” Ben Hogan being on top of the professional golfing world…..so, this story dedicated to the life and career of “The Wee Iceman”, “Bantam Ben” and “The Hawk”….as he was known by then….cuz Pops was a big golf fan, who like of Hogan and Byron Nelson….which meant that BD was too.  Are you starting to see how this was all coming together….for the fact remains that there is a lifelong connection of Bone Daddy with wonderful memories of Ben Hogan working a shot around a big oak tree with Pops shouting….“That a boy Iceman”….and seeing the videos that I posted wherewith….simply brings tears to Bone Daddy’s eyes….and when he saw the video’s of The Hawk teaching “The Swing” or “The Grip”…..that’s when BD almost jumped out of his seat…..while telling me how Pops Y Los Tres Hemanos (Pops and his 3 sons) would get the set of golf clubs out…..and go out to the yard and practice what “Bantam Ben” had taught you.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special Film – “Chasing The Hawk” – With Don January + Eldridge Miles

William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912 – July 25, 1997) was an American professional golfer….who is generally considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game…..while being notable for his profound influence on golf swing theory and his legendary ball-striking ability…..as his nine career professional major championships tie him with Gary Player for 4th all-time….while trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11)….for he is one of only five players to have won all four majors including the Masters Tournament…..The British Open (despite only playing once)…..the U.S. Open….and the PGA Championship…..with the other four being Nicklaus, Woods, Player, and Gene Sarazen….plus Hogan’s first major win came at age 34.                                                                                                   

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special Film – The Life And Career Of Ben Hogan

Hogan was born in Stephenville, Texas, the 3rd and youngest child of Chester and Clara (Williams) Hogan….who was a blacksmith and the family lived ten miles (16 km) southwest in Dublin until 1921, when they moved seventy miles (110 km) northeast to Fort Worth.  When Hogan was nine years old in 1922….that is when his father Chester committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot at the family home. By some accounts, Chester committed suicide in front of Ben….for which some (including Hogan biographer James Dodson) have cited as the cause of his introverted personality throughout the  years…..visa vie “wee iceman”….after which the family incurred financial difficulties….as the children took jobs to help their seamstress mother make ends meet….when older brother Royal quit school at age 14 to deliver office supplies by bicycle….while nine-year-old Ben sold newspapers after school at the nearby train station. A tip from a friend led Hogan to caddying at age eleven at the Glen Garden Country Club….which was a nine-hole course seven miles (11 km) to the south.  One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson….who later was a tour rival….when the two would tie for the lead at the annual Christmas caddie tournament in December 1927….when both were fifteen years old…..as Nelson sank a 30-foot (9 m) putt to tie on the ninth and final hole….and Instead of sudden death, they played another nine holes….as Nelson would sink another substantial putt on the final green to win by a stroke.                          

Golf – 1912 To 1950 – Special – Ben Hogan: “Hard Case From Texas” – Part 1

The following spring, Nelson was granted the only junior membership offered by the members of Glen Garden….as club rules did not allow caddies age 16 and older….so after August 1928, Hogan took his game to three scrubby daily-fee courses at Katy Lake, Worth Hills and Z-Boaz….then he dropped out of Central High School during the final semester of his senior year…..and turned pro in the golf industry six months shy of his 18th birthday at the Texas Open in San Antonio in late January 1930.  Hogan’s early years as a pro were very difficult….as he would go broke more than once….plus, he didn’t win his first tournament (as an individual) until March 1940….when he followed that up by winning three consecutive events in North Carolina at age 27….and although it took a decade for Hogan to secure his first victory, his wife Valerie believed in him, and this helped see him through the tough years when he battled a hook that he later cured.                                                                                                                                                          

Golf – 1951 To 1971 – Special – Ben Hogan: “Hard Case From Texas” – Part 2

Despite finishing 13th on the money list in 1938, Hogan took an assistant pro job at Century Country Club in Purchase, New York….where he worked as an assistant pro and then as the head pro until 1941….when he took the head pro job at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  During Hogan’s prime years of 1938 through 1959….while he won 63 professional golf tournaments despite the interruption of his career by World War II and a near-fatal car accident.  Hogan served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from March 1943 to June 1945…..and he was stationed locally at Fort Worth and became a utility pilot with the rank of lieutenant.  The fact remains that Pops came to the Ft. Worth Naval Air Station in 1945….after his tour at Pearl Harbor….where he endured the attack….and spent the balance of his tour of duty (2 years) in the process of cleaning up Pearl Harbor after the attack….so, Ben Hogan was at the same base within a year of each other.  Just FYI, the Ft. Worth Naval Air Station was where Pops met Granny….so, this story brings back a great deal of history in Bone Daddy’s family lineage.                                                                        

Golf – Golf – 1949 To 1953 – Special – Ben Hogan’s “Timeless Tips”                                                                                  

While driving home to Fort Worth after a Monday playoff loss at the 1949 Phoenix Open….that’s when Ben Hogan and his wife Valerie survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus just east of Van Horn, Texas…..when on the morning of Wednesday, February 2, Hogan had reduced his speed in the limited visibility ground fog…..while the bus was attempting to pass another vehicle on a narrow bridge….which left no place to avoid the crash…..when Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her….for he would have been killed had he not done so….as the steering column punctured the driver’s seat of their new Cadillac sedan.  This accident left Hogan, age 36, with a double-fracture of the pelvis….a fractured  collar bone….a left ankle fracture….a chipped rib….with near-fatal blood clots….which would cause him to suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations….plus, his doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively…..then while he was in the hospital in El Paso….that’s when  his life was endangered by a blood clot problem that led doctors to tie off the vena cava….which is a large vein carrying deoxygenated blood into the heart…..as there are two in humans, the inferior vena cava (carrying blood from the lower body) and the superior vena cava (carrying blood from the head, arms, and upper body)…..which means that either one being tied off could affect a golf career.  He left the hospital on the first of April, 59 days after the accident, and returned to Fort Worth by train.                                    

Golf – 1950 To 1990 – Special – Golf’s Greatest Lessons – With Ben Hogan + Lee Trevino Et Al

Hogan regained his strength by extensive walking and resumed his golf activities in November 1949. He returned to the PGA Tour to start the 1950 season at the Los Angeles Open….where he tied with Sam Snead over 72 holes….but lost the 18-hole playoff….which was held over a week later (due to course conditions)….when the win at Carnoustie was only a part of Hogan’s watershed 1953 season….which was a year in which he won five of the six tournaments he entered, including three major championships….a feat known as the Triple Crown of Golf…..as 1953 still stands among the greatest single seasons in the history of professional golf.  As a matter of fact, Hogan, 40, was unable to enter the 1953 PGA Championship to complete the Grand Slam of Golf in one year because its play (July 1–7) overlapped the play of The Open at Carnoustie (July 6–10), which he won. It was the only time that a golfer had won three major professional championships in a year until Tiger Woods won the final three majors in 2000.                         

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special – Ben Hogan’s Swing Analysis

Hogan often declined to play in the PGA Championship….when he skipped it more and more often as his career wore on…..which was for two reasons…..1st, the PGA Championship was, until 1958, a match play event, and Hogan’s particular skill was “shooting a number”….while meticulously planning and executing a strategy to achieve a score for a round on a particular course….as evidenced by his leaaving out the 7-iron in the U.S. Open at Merion….saying “there are no 7-iron shots at Merion”…..2nd, the PGA required several days of 36 holes per day competition….and after his 1949 auto accident, Hogan struggled to manage more than 18 holes a day.  After the win at Carnoustie, Hogan and his wife Valerie were passengers on the SS United States westbound to New York City….where he received a ticker tape parade down Broadway on July 21.  Ben Hogan is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest ball strikers who ever played golf…..and although he had a formidable record with 64 PGA tour victories…..it is Hogan’s ball-striking ability that mostly underpins his modern reputation.                                                              

Golf – 1951 – Special – Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons Training

Hogan was known to practice more than any of his contemporary golfers….and is said to have “invented practice” by PGA players…..to which he replied….“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but… I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning, so I could hit balls. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply, it’s a joy that very few people experience.”  Ben Hogan was also one of the first players to match particular clubs to yardages….along with reference points around the course such as bunkers or trees….which was done to improve his distance control….as he generally thought that an individual’s golf swing was “in the dirt”….and that mastering it required plenty of practice and repetition. He is also known to have spent years contemplating the golf swing….while trying a range of theories and methods before arriving at the finished method….which brought him his greatest period of success.                                                                                                                                                   

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special Training Lesson – Ben Hogan’s Practice Swings Training Guide

The young Hogan was badly afflicted by hooking the golf ball….and although slight of build at 5’8½” and 145 pounds….which are attributes that earned him the nickname “Bantam” ….“Wee Iceman”….of which he thoroughly disliked….cuz he was long off the tee early in his career….when like many professional golfers of his day, he competed in long drive contests as well as match play and stroke play events.  It has been alleged that Hogan used a “strong” grip….with hands more the right of the club grip in tournament play prior to his accident in 1949….while practicing often with a “weak” grip….with the back of the left wrist facing the target….and that this limited his success, or at least, his reliability up to that date.  Jacobs alleges that Byron Nelson told him this information….and furthermore that Hogan developed and used the “strong” grip as a boy in order to be able to hit the ball as far as bigger, stronger contemporaries. This strong grip is what resulted in Hogan hitting the odd disastrous snap hook…..while Hogan’s late swing produced the famed “Hogan Fade” ball flight….while lower than usual for a great player….and from left to right. This ball flight was the result of his using a “draw” type swing in conjunction with a “weak” grip…. which was a combination that all but negated the chance of hitting a hook.                                                               

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special – Ben Hogan: “Attack Of The Hawk” – Accompanied By Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Voodoo Child”                                                                                                                                                               

Hogan played and practiced golf with only bare hands, i.e., without wearing gloves. Moe Norman did the same, playing and practicing without gloves. The two were arguably the greatest ball strikers golf has ever known….as even Tiger Woods is quoted them as the only players ever to have “owned their swings” which means that they had total control of their swings….and as a result, the ball’s flight.  In May 1967, the editor of Cary Middlecoff’s 1974 book The Golf Swing watched every shot that 54-year-old Hogan hit in the Colonial National Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas….saying “Hogan shot 281 for a third-place tie with George Archer. Of the 281 shots, 141 were taken in reaching the greens. Of the 141, 139 were rated from well-executed to superbly executed. The remaining two were a drive that missed the fairway by some 5 yards and a 5-iron to a par-3 hole that missed the green by about the same distance. It was difficult, if not impossible to conceive of anybody hitting the ball better over a four-day span.”                              

Golf – 1948 – Special Training Lesson – Ben Hogan’s Secret Elbow Move

Hogan is thought to have developed a “secret” that made his swing nearly automatic. There are many theories as to its exact nature. The earliest theory is that the “secret” was a special wrist movement known as “cupping under”….as the true information was revealed in a 1955 Life magazine article…. whereby many believed Hogan did not reveal all that he knew at the time….as it has since been alleged in Golf Digest magazine….and by Jody Vasquez in his book “Afternoons With Mr Hogan”….wherein the 2nd element of Hogan’s “secret” was the way in which he used his right knee to initiate the swing….and that this right knee movement was critical to the correct operation of the wrist.  Hogan revealed later in life that the “secret” involved cupping the left wrist at the top of the backswing….while using a weaker left-hand grip (thumb more on top of the grip as opposed to on the right side)….as he did this to prevent himself from ever hooking the ball off the tee…..cuz by positioning his hands in this manner, he ensured that the club face would be slightly open upon impact….which creates a fade (left to right ball flight) as opposed to a draw or hook (right to left ball flight).                                                                                                       

Golf – 1964 – Highlights – 52 Yr Old Ben Hogan Playing A Round At The Houston Country Club

Many believed that although he played right-handed as an adult…..Ben Hogan was actually left-handed…. whereby in his book “Five Lessons”….where in the chapter entitled “The Grip,” Hogan said “I was born left-handed — that was the normal way for me to do things. I was switched over to doing things right-handed when I was a boy but I started golf as a left-hander because the first club I ever came into possession of, an old five-iron, was a left-handed stick.”  This belief also seemed to be corroborated by Hogan himself in his earlier book “Power Golf.”….however, some mystery still remains about this since Hogan in subsequent interviews said that the belief of his being left-handed was actually a myth…which was noted in what was probably his last video interview and in his 1987 Golf Magazine interview.  In these interviews Hogan said that he was indeed a right-handed player….who early on practiced/played with a left hand club that had been given to him because it was all that he had…..and that it was this issue that brought about the myth that he was left-handed. This may be the reason that his early play with right-handed equipment found him using a cross-handed grip (right hand at the end of the club, left hand below it).  In “The Search for the Perfect Golf Swing”, researchers Cochran and Stobbs held the opinion that a left-handed person playing right-handed would be prone to hook the ball.                                                     

Golf – 1949 To 1953 – Special Teaching Lesson – “The Golf Grip” With Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan won ten tournaments in 1948 alone, including the U.S. Open at Riviera Country Club, a course known as “Hogan’s Alley” because of his success there. His 8-under par score in 1948 set a U.S. Open record that was matched only by Jack Nicklaus in 1980, Hale Irwin in 1990, and Lee Janzen in 1993. It was not broken until Tiger Woods shot 12-under par in 2000 (Jim Furyk also shot 8-under par in the 2003, Rory McIlroy set the current record with 16-under par in 2011, which was matched by Brooks Koepka in 2017).  Hy Peskin, a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated, took a famous photo of Ben Hogan playing a 1-iron shot to the green at the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open.  It was ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the greatest sports photographs of the 20th century.                                                                                                          

Golf – 1953 – Special Teaching Lesson – The Ben Hogan Golf Swing

Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, a modern PGA Tour tournament venue, is also known as “Hogan’s Alley”….and may have the better claim to the nickname as he won its tour event five times….as it was his home course after his retirement….and was an active member of Colonial as well for many years….and as a matter of fact….the 6th hole at Carnoustie….which is a par five on which Hogan took a famously difficult line off the tee during each of his rounds in the 1953 Open Championship….has also recently been renamed Hogan’s Alley”.                                                                                                                                                 

Golf – 1959 – Colonial Tournament Highlights – With Ben Hogan’s Final PGA Tournament Championship

Prior to the 1949 accident, Hogan never truly captured the hearts of his galleries….despite being one of the best golfers of his time…..which was perhaps due to his perceived cold and aloof on-course persona …..but when Hogan shocked and amazed the golf world by returning to tournament golf only eleven months after his accident…..and took 2nd place in the 1950 Los Angeles Open after a playoff loss to Sam Snead….that’s when he was cheered on by ecstatic fans….a time when famed sportwriter Grantland Rice said of Hogan after his near-miss in L A… “His legs simply were not strong enough to carry his heart any longer,” …..however, Hogan proved to his critics (and to himself, especially) that he could still win by completing his famous comeback five months later by defeating Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff at Merion near Philadelphia to win his second U.S. Open title.                                                            

Golf – 1951 – US Open Highlight – Featuring Winner Ben Hogan

Hogan went on to achieve what is perhaps the greatest sporting accomplishment in history….while limping to twelve more PGA Tour wins….which included six majors before retiring….when in 1951, Hogan entered just five events….but won three of them, the Masters, U.S. Open and World Championship of Golf ….while finishing 2nd and 4th in his other two starts.  He finished 4th on that season’s money list, barely $6,000 behind the season’s official money list leader Lloyd Mangrum….who played over twenty events. That year also saw the release of a biopic starring Glenn Ford as Hogan, called Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story…..and he even received a ticker-tape parade in New York City in 1953, upon his return from winning the British Open….which was the only time he played the event.  With that victory, Hogan became just the second player, after Gene Sarazen, to win all four of the modern major championships of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship…..as he remains the only player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same calendar year of 1953.  His 14-under par at the 1953 Masters set a record that stood for a dozen years….and as of 2018, he remained as one of just twelve players including Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw, Tiger Woods, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed to have recorded such a low score in the tournament.  In 1967, at age 54, Hogan shot a record 30 on the back nine at the Masters….which was a record that stood until 1992.                                                                                            

Golf – 1967 – Special Footage – Ben Hogan’s Final Round 30 On Backside At The Masters

Many supporters of Hogan and some golf historians feel that his victory at the Hale America Open in 1942 should be counted as his fifth U.S. Open and 10th major championship…. since the tournament was to be a substitute for the Open after its cancellation by the USGA. The Hale America Open was held in the same time slot and was run like the U.S. Open with more than 1,500 entries, local qualifying at 69 sites and sectional qualifying at most major cities. The top players, who were not away fighting in World War II, participated and the largest purse of the year was awarded.

Hogan never competed on the Senior PGA Tour, as that circuit did not exist until he was in his late sixties.                                                                                                                                                                              

Golf – 1930 To 1971 – Special Film – “Bantam Ben” – The Story Of Ben Hogan – With Jimmy Demerit + Byron Nelson + Sam Snead + Arnold Palmer + Grantland Rice

Any way you cut the pie….The Wee Iceman was formidable in every way except one when it came to golf…..from his swing, to his hours of practicing his trade, to his mental toughness….to his tremendous heart…..to his incredible shot making skills….especially when you consider that he was physically scared with a handicap like no other legend of golf throughout history….which all made for a lifetime affection of the man and his skills by Pops and his three sons….especially Bone Daddy.

 

Golf – 1948 – PGA Championship Highlights – Ben Hogan Wins PGA At Norwood Hills Country Club

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