Golfing has been around for quite some time now, and is known for being a slow and relaxing sport that still requires some real skill to be able to play properly. But obviously, as with literally any sport in existence today, the current form of golfing didn’t just come about overnight. Many golfers played through and revolutionized the sport during their lifetimes to mold it into the game that it is today.
One of these people was Dublin native Ben Hogan, an American professional golfer of the 20th Century who was known not only for his impressive golfing skills, but also for introducing and refining aspects of the sport. Ben Hogan is also known for being one of only five professional golfers in history to have won all four majors.
Ben Hogan was born on the 13th of August in the year 1912 to parents Chester and Clara Hogan. He was the third child in the family, and spent his earliest years in Dublin, Texas. In the year 1921 the family relocated to Fort Worth, where the following year Ben Hogan’s father committed suicide at home via gunshot. Some accounts of the incident claim that Chester Hogan committed suicide in front of Ben Hogan, who was only nine years old at the time, and claim that is the reason Ben always had an introverted personality even decades down the line.
Following their father’s suicide, Ben Hogan and his siblings took up odd jobs here and there to assist the family’s dire financial circumstances. Ben Hogan’s older brother dropped out of school at the age of 14 to continue working to support the family. And Ben himself would busy himself every day after school in selling newspapers at the nearby train station. At the age of eleven however, Ben Hogan took up a job as a caddy at the Glen Garden Country Club alongside fellow caddy and future rival and professional golfer Byron Nelson.
The two tied at the annual caddie tournament of the club in 1927, with both agreeing to play another full nine holes, which ended in Byron Nelson just beating Ben Hogan on the final green. The next year Byron Nelson was given junior membership at the club, while Ben Hogan had to quit his job as a caddie due to the club’s rules not allowing caddies aged 16 or older. Ben Hogan would then go to work at three different courses.
Professional Career and Victories
Ben Hogan decided to drop out of high school to pursue his interest in going pro in the golfing scene, and got his wish in January of 1930 at the Texas Open in San Antonio. Hogan would meet a former acquaintance Valerie Fox in 1932, and would go on to marry her in 1935. During this time Hogan had a club pro job in Cleburne that paid just enough for him and his wife to scrape by.
The initial years of Ben Hogan’s career were difficult, with multiple instances of Ben running out of money and having to bear multiple losses in tournaments. At the age of 27, in the year of 1940, Ben Hogan would go on to win three consecutive events in North Carolina, marking the first time he had won a golfing tournament as an individual. His career was also disturbed by other factors, like World War 2 when he served as a utility pilot at Fort Worth. Despite this, he won 63 professional-level tournaments between the years of 1938 and 1959.
Ben Hogan and his wife Valerie Fox also got in to an almost fatal car crash in 1949. Due to foggy conditions the couple’s car collided head-on with a bus, and had Ben Hogan not thrown himself in front of Valerie in an attempt to protect her from the collision, he would have died to the steering column that punctured the driver’s seat during the collision. The injuries sustained from the accident were severe, and doctors feared Ben would never walk again.
Despite all odds and even further complications during his time in the hospital due to blood clotting problems, Ben recovered and was sent home where he continued to walk and gently exercise until he regained enough physical control to not only independently walk, but also to return to golfing within the same year. Ben Hogan is also known for his spectacular year of 1953, when he won five out of six tournaments that he entered. Three of these were major championships, and this moment is still remembered today as the “Triple Crown of Golf”.
Ben Hogan’s Famed Golf Swing
Ben Hogan had been one of the finest players professional golf had ever seen, but it isn’t just his numerous victories and tournament wins that netted him this fame. Ben Hogan was renowned in the golfing industry for having a very special and completely unique ball-striking ability.
His golf swing has been the topic of in-depth discussion among golfing professionals, and has led to multiple theories on how he used to execute his swing. Ben Hogan is known to have been a golfer that practiced way more than his rivals, and that is very likely why and how he developed his swing that is often thought of as having almost robotic precision. The ratio of superbly executed swings versus normal ones in one game was so high when it came to Ben Hogan that is called almost miraculous. Hogan would go on to publish a book talking about the fundamentals of perfecting your golf swing, and this book is still read by golfers worldwide.
Ben Hogan would pass away on the 25th of July in 1997, and Valerie Fox would follow suit only two years later.
Ben Hogan is widely renowned today as one of the best, and one of the most important professional golfers to have ever lived. His playstyle and his techniques continue to teach up and coming golfers of today, while his impressive victories in the face of insurmountable odds continue to inspire the whole industry. While you’re here and still interested in historical lessons about Texas, give our article on the state symbol and the Texas longhorn a read. Or read some more about Fort Worth and its stockyards.