For fans of professional golf, there is one player that the modern game owes everything to. Yes, Arnold Palmer brought swagger to the game, and Jack Nicklaus certainly redefined what it meant to be dominant in the sport, but before either of them hit the scene there was one man demonstrating a level of skill that to this day remains legendary.
Ben Hogan played the game of golf as well, if not better than it had been played before or since. His focus, willpower, and unquestionable talent earned him a slew of tournaments that will keep his name in the records forever.
Perhaps even in more significant, Ben Hogan demonstrated one of the most remarkable come backs in the history of sports. Today we will be taking a look at this incredible player’s life.
Ben Hogan biography
Ben Hogan was born in Stepenville Texas in the year of on August 13, 1912, to parents Chester and Clara. Unfortunately, tragedy struck home for young Ben Hogan at an early age when his father took his own life at home.
This tragedy would ultimately deprive Hogan of his childhood. After Chester’s passing the Hogans encountered financial struggles that would require the three children to take jobs to help their seamstress mother maintain the household.
When Hogan was eleven he would take a job as a caddy at a local country club where he would learn the game of golf, and even establish a friendly rivalry with tour legend to be, Byron Nelson, who was also working as a caddy at the club.
Hogan would ultimately master the game very quickly, dropping of high school at the age of seventeen, just several months short of his high school graduation in order to turn pro at the Texas Open in the year of 1930.
Though there is no denying that Hogan was a great talent the early years of his career were a great struggle, to the point that he had to take a low paying job as a teaching pro to pay the bills.
For ten years, Hogan would fight a severe hook that would that would keep him from securing a victory. Things were not all bad, however. During these tumultuous years of his career he met his wife Valerie while working as a golf pro.
The couple would marry in 1935 and Valerie would stand by him even during times of great financial difficulty that would see their family go broke three times.
Of course, things would eventually work out. Hogan cured his hook, and in the year 1940 he would win three consecutive tournaments.
Between the years 1940-1959 Hogan would win sixty-three times, even despite the fact that his career was put on pause as he went to serve in the army during World War 2 between the years 1943-1945. Of those sixty-three wins, nine of them were majors.
As famous as Hogan is for his tremendous skill and his many wins, he is perhaps equally well known for making one of the biggest comebacks of all time.
In 1948 Hogan was involved in a life-threatening head on car accident with a Greyhound bus that would very nearly take his life.
At impact, Hogan threw himself over his wife to protect her from the crash. In the process, her life was saved but his was put into even greater danger as the steering column came into direct contact with his torso.
The car accident would leave Hogan with a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots. The diagnosis was quite severe: not only was Hogan never expected to play golf again, but there was a very good chance that he wouldn’t even be able to walk.
Of course, that isn’t what happened. Fifty-nine days after the accident Hogan walked out of the hospital.
The road to recovery was long and difficult, but after extensive physical therapy Hogan made his return to the tour in November of that year, where he would tie for the lead in the Los Angles Open, but ultimately lose in an eighteen hole play off to his tour rival Byron Nelson.
The greatest season in golf
There have been many great seasons in professional golf, but few if any can match Hogan’s 1953 season during which he would win five of six tournaments that he entered, including three majors (The Masters, U.S Open, and British Open).
This feat is now known as the triple crown in golf and has been accomplished only one other time by Tiger Woods in 2000.
That season Hogan was not even eligible to compete in the PGA Championship to complete the single season grand slam because it overlapped with the British Open.
Post car accident, Hogan would routinely miss the PGA championship both because the match play format did not fit his strategy, and because many days would require thirty-six holes of play which was very difficult for him to do after his injuries.
Despite the fact that Hogan was only able to enter into six tournaments that season, it remains a landmark achievement that few golfers are ever likely to match.
Hogan would slow down significantly in the sixties but would remain a presence in the game of golf until his death in 1997 at the age of 84.
Ben Hogan is a legend for more than just his famous golf swing, or his many victories. Few athletes of any sports have overcome more to play their game than Ben Hogan.
The man was more than just a champion, he was a courageous respectable man that set a standard for professional golf that endures to this day. Between his hard work, his service to his country, and his selflessness in risking life for that of his wife one thing is clear: Ben Hogan was one of the great gentlemen of the gentleman’s game.