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William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912July 25, 1997) was an Americanmarker golfer, and is generally considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game. Born within six months of two other acknowledged golf greats of the twentieth century, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, Hogan is notable for his profound influence on the golf swing theory and his legendary ball-striking ability, for which he remains renowned among players and aficionados. His life is depicted in the biographical film Follow the Sun (1951).

Early life and character

Born in Stephenvillemarker, Texasmarker, he was the third and youngest child of Chester and Clara (Williams) Hogan. His father was a blacksmith and the family lived ten miles southwest in Dublinmarker until 1921, when they moved 70 miles (112 km) northeast to Fort Worthmarker. Following his father's suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest at the family home in 1922, the family incurred financial difficulty and the children took jobs to help their seamstress mother make ends meet. Older brother Royal quit school at age fourteen to deliver office supplies by bicycle, and nine year-old Ben sold newspapers after school at the nearby train station. A tip from a friend led him to caddying at the age of eleven, at Glen Garden Country Club, a nine-hole course seven miles (11 km) to the south.

When Hogan was 9, his father Chester committed suicide. By some accounts Chester committed suicide in front of him, which some (including Hogan biographer James Dodson) have cited as the cause of his introverted personality in later years. One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson, later a tour rival. The two would tie for the lead at the annual Christmas caddy tournament in December 1927, when both were fifteen. Nelson sank a thirty foot putt to tie on the ninth and final hole. Instead of sudden death, they played another nine holes; Nelson sank another substantial putt on the final green to win by a stroke.

The following spring, Nelson was granted the only junior membership offered by the members of Glen Garden. Club rules did not allow caddies age 16 and older, so after August 1928, Hogan took his game to three scrubby daily-fee courses: Katy Lake, Worth Hills, and Z-Boaz.

Hogan dropped out of Central High School during the final semester of his senior year, and became a professional golfer at the Texas Open in San Antoniomarker in late January 1930, more than six months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Hogan met Valerie Fox in Sunday school in Fort Worth in the mid-1920s, and they reacquainted in 1932 when he landed a low-paying club pro job in Cleburnemarker, where her family had moved. They married in April 1935 at her parents' home.

Despite finishing 13th on the money list in 1938, Hogan had to take an assistant pro’s job, and was hired that year by Century Country Club in Purchase, New Yorkmarker. He worked at Century as an assistant and then as the head pro until 1941, when he took the head job at Hershey Country Clubmarker in Hershey, Pennsylvaniamarker.

His early years as a pro were very difficult, and Hogan went broke more than once. He did not win his first pro tournament until March 1940, when he won three consecutive tournaments in North Carolinamarker. Although it took a decade to secure his first victory, Hogan's wife Valerie believed in him, and this helped see him through the tough years, when he battled a hook, which he later cured.By most accounts, Ben Hogan was the best golfer of his era, and still stands as one of the greatest of all time. "The Hawk" possessed fierce determination and an iron will, combined with his unquestionable golf skills, formed an aura which could intimidate opponents into competitive submission. In Scotlandmarker, Hogan was known as "The Wee Ice Man", or, in some versions, "Wee Ice Mon," a moniker earned during his famous British Open victory at Carnoustiemarker in 1953. It is a reference to his steely and seemingly nerveless demeanor, itself a product of a golf swing he had built that was designed to perform better the more pressure he put it under. Hogan rarely spoke during competition, and few opponents could avoid wilting under his icy glare. Hogan was also highly respected by fellow competitors for his superb course management skills. During his peak years, he rarely if ever attempted a shot in competition which he had not thoroughly honed in practice.

Career-threatening accident

Between the years of 1938 through 1959, Hogan won 63 professional golf tournaments despite his career's being interrupted in its prime by World War II and a near-fatal car accident. Hogan and his wife, Valerie, survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-shrouded bridge east of Van Hornmarker, Texasmarker on February 2, 1949. Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her, and would have been killed had he not done so, as the steering column punctured the driver's seat.

This accident left Hogan, age 36, with a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots: he would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations. His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. He left the hospital on April 1, 59 days after the accident.

The "Hogan Slam" season

The win at Carnoustie was but a part of Hogan's watershed 1953 season, in which he won five of the six tournaments he entered and the first three major championships of the year (a feat known as the "Hogan Slam").

It still stands among the greatest single seasons in the history of professional golf. Hogan, 40, was unable to enter — and possibly win — the 1953 PGA Championship (to complete the Grand Slam) because its play (July 1–7) overlapped the play of the British Open at Carnoustie (July 6–10), which he won. It remains the only time that a golfer has won the first three major professional championships of the year; Tiger Woods won the final three majors in 2000 and the first in 2001.

Hogan often declined to play in the PGA Championship, skipping it more and more often as his career wore on. There were two reasons for this: firstly, the PGA Championship was, until 1958, a match play event, and Hogan's particular skill was "shooting a number" — meticulously planning and executing a strategy to achieve a score for a round on a particular course (even to the point of leaving out the 7-iron in the U.S. Open at Merion, saying "there are no 7-iron shots at Merion"). The second reason was that 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.

His nine career professional major championships tie him (with Gary Player) for fourth all-time, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (14) and Walter Hagen (11).

Hogan's golf swing

Ben Hogan is widely acknowledged to have been the greatest ball striker ever to have played golf. Although he had a formidable record as a tournament winner, it is this aspect of Hogan which mostly underpins his modern reputation.

Hogan was known to practice more than any other golfer of his contemporaries and is said to have "invented practice". On this matter, Hogan himself said, "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." He was also one of the first players to match particular clubs to yardages, or references points around the course such as bunkers or trees, in order to improve his distance control.

Hogan 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, trying a range of theories and methods before arriving at the finished method which brought him his greatest period of success.

The young Hogan was badly afflicted by hooking the golf ball. Although slight of build at only 5'7" and 140 pounds (64 kg) - attributes that earned him the nickname "Bantam", which he thoroughly disliked - he was very long off the tee early in his career, and even competed in long drive contests.

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, despite often practicing 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 (source: John Jacobs in his book 'Fifty Greatest Golf Lessons of the Century').

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. Nelson and Hogan both grew up in Fort Worth, and they are known to have played against each other as teenagers.

Hogan's late swing produced the famed "Hogan Fade" ball flight, 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, a combination which all but negated the chance of hitting a hook.

Hogan played and practiced golf with only bare-hands i.e. he played or practiced without wearing any gloves. Moe Norman also did the same, playing and practicing without wearing any golf gloves. Both these players are/were arguably the greatest ball strikers golf has ever known; even Tiger Woods quoted them as the only players ever to have "owned their swings", in that they had total control of it and, as a result, the ball's flight.

Hogan's secret

Hogan is thought to have developed a "secret" which 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". This information was revealed in a 1955 Life magazine article. However, many believed Hogan did not reveal all that he knew at the time. It has since been alleged in Golf Digest magazine, and by Jody Vasquez in his book "Afternoons With Mr Hogan", that the second 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 back swing and using a weaker left hand grip (thumb more on top of the grip as opposed to on the right side).

Hogan did this to prevent himself from ever hooking the ball off the tee. By positioning his hands in this manner, he ensured that the club face would be slightly open upon impact, creating a fade (left to right ball flight) as opposed to a draw or hook (right to left ball flight).

This is not something that would benefit all golfers, however, since the average golfer already slices or fades the ball. The draw is more appealing to amateurs due to its greater distance. Many believed that although he played right-handed as an adult, Hogan was actually left-handed, a belief that seemed corroborated by Hogan himself in his book "Power Golf". However, some mystery still remains about this since Hogan in subsequent interviews said that the belief of him being left-handed was actually a myth (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 hand 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.

Even a decade after his death, amateurs and professionals continue to study the techniques of this consummate player, as evidenced by such books as Ben Hogan, The Man Behind the Mystique (Martin, 2002) and the more recent The Secret of Hogan's Swing (Bertrand and Bowler, 2006).

"Five Fundamentals" and golf instruction

Hogan believed that a solid, repeatable golf swing involved only a few essential elements, which, when performed correctly and in sequence, were the essence of the swing. His book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf is perhaps the most widely-read golf tutorial ever written, although Harvey Penick's Little Red Book would also have a claim to that title, and the principles therein are often parroted by modern "swing gurus".

Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals: The Five Lessons of Golf was initially released as a five part series beginning in the March 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, and was printed in book form later in that same year. It is currently in its 64th printing. Even today it continues to maintain a place at or near the top of the golf book sales rankings. The book was co-authored by Herbert Warren Wind, and illustrated by artist Anthony Ravielli.

In 1953, Hogan started a company to manufacture golf clubs and golf equipment (The Ben Hogan Company). In 1960, he sold the company to American Machine and Foundry (AMF), but stayed on as chairman of the board for several more years. AMF Ben Hogan golf clubs were sold continuously from 1960 to 1985 when AMF was bought by Minstar who sold The Ben Hogan company in 1988 to Cosmo World. Cosmo world owned the club manufacturer until 1998 when it was sold to Top Flite who in turn was sold to Callaway in 2004. Callaway now owns the rights to the Ben Hogan company and has no plans to take the brand any further with equipment.

Playing style

Hogan is widely acknowledged to have been the best ball striker ever.

Hogan's ball striking has also been described as being of near miraculous caliber by other very knowledgeable observers such as Jack Nicklaus, who only saw him play some years after his prime. Nicklaus once responded to the question, "Is Tiger Woods the best ball striker you have ever seen?" with, "No, no - Ben Hogan, easily".

Further testimony to Hogan's (and Norman's) status among top golfers is provided by Tiger Woods, who recently said that he wished to "own his (golf) swing" in the same way as Moe Norman and Hogan had. Woods claimed that this pair were the only players ever to have "owned their swings", in that they had total control of it and, as a result, of the ball's flight.

Although his ball striking was perhaps the greatest ever, Hogan is also known to have at times been a very poor putter by professional standards, particularly on slow greens. The majority of his putting problems developed after his car accident in 1949. Toward the end of his career, he would stand over the ball, in some cases for minutes, before drawing the putter back. It was written in the Hogan Biography, Ben Hogan: An American Life, that Hogan had damaged his left eye and that poor vision added to his putting problems.

While he suffered from the "yips" in his later years, Hogan was known as an effective putter from mid to short range on quick, U.S. Open style surfaces at times during his career.

Career and records

In 1948 alone, Ben Hogan won 10 tournaments, including the U.S. Open at Riviera Country Club, a course known as "Hogan's Alley" because of his success there. Colonial Country Club in Fort Worthmarker, a modern PGA tournament venue, is also known as "Hogan's Alley" and may have the better claim to the nickname. Hogan's Alley is also the name of an FBI training complex, and the term has its origins in the late 19th century in the form of a cartoon strip, only later being matched with courses at which Hogan excelled. The sixth hole at Carnoustiemarker, a par five from the tee of which Hogan took a famously difficult line off during each of his rounds in the 1953 Open Championship, has also recently been renamed Hogan's Alley.

Hogan's homecoming ticker-tape parade in New York, 1953

Prior to the 1949 accident, Hogan never truly captured the hearts of his galleries, despite being one of the better golfers of his time. Perhaps this was due to his cold and aloof on-course persona. But when Ben Hogan shocked and amazed the golf world by returning to tournament golf only 11 months after his accident, and, amazingly, took second place in the 1950 Los Angeles Open after a playoff loss to Sam Snead, he was cheered on by ecstatic fans. "His legs simply were not strong enough to carry his heart any longer", famed sportswriter Grantland Rice said of Hogan's near-miss. However, he proved to his critics (and to himself, especially) that he could still win by completing his famous comeback five months later, defeating Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff at Merion Golf Clubmarker to win his second U.S. Open Championship. Hogan went on to achieve what is perhaps the greatest sporting accomplishment in history, limping to 12 more PGA Tour wins (including 6 majors) before retiring. In 1951, Hogan entered just five events, but won three of them - the Mastersmarker, the U.S. Open, and the World Championship of Golf, and finished second and fourth in his other two starts. He would finish fourth on that season's money list, barely $6,000 behind the season's official money list leader Lloyd Mangrum, who played over 20 events. That year also saw the release of a biopic starring Glenn Ford as Hogan, called Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story. He even received a ticker-tape parade in New York Citymarker upon his return from winning the 1953 British Open Championship, the only time he played the event. With his British Open Championship victory, Hogan became just the second player, after Gene Sarazen, to win all four of the modern major championships—the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.

Hogan never competed on the senior golf tour, as that circuit did not exist until he was in his late sixties.

He died in Fort Worthmarker, Texasmarker. His interment was located at its cemetery Greenwood Memorial Park.

Distinctions and honors

  • Hogan played on two U.S. Ryder Cup teams, 1947 and 1951, and captained the team three times, 1947, 1949, and 1967, famously claiming on the latter occasion to have brought the "twelve best golfers in the world" to play in the competition. (This line was used by subsequent Ryder Cup captain Raymond Floyd in 1989, although on that occasion the United Statesmarker was beaten by Team Europe at The Belfrymarker.)
  • Hogan won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average three times: 1940, 1941, and 1948. In 1953, Hogan won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year in the United States.
  • Ben Hogan founded a golf club manufacturing company, later purchased by AMF, and then the Callaway Golf Company, and his clubs, or at least ones that carry his name, were manufactured until 2008, when Callaway ceased production of Ben Hogan brand products.
  • The Ben Hogan Award is given annually by the Golf Writers Association of America to a golfer who has stayed active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. The first winner was Babe Zaharias.
  • His company, the Ben Hogan Company, was the initial sponsor of the Ben Hogan Tour, now known as the Nationwide Tour.
  • He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1976, Ben Hogan was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
  • A special room is dedicated to Hogan's career, comeback, and accomplishments at the United States Golf Association Museum and Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in Far Hills, New Jerseymarker.
  • Hogan ranked 38th in ESPN's SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999.
  • In 2000, Hogan was ranked as the second greatest player of all time by Golf Digest magazine. Jack Nicklaus was first, and Sam Snead was third.
  • In 2009, Hogan was ranked as the fourth greatest player of all time by Golf Magazine. Jack Nicklaus was first, Tiger Woods was second, and Bobby Jones was third.

Professional wins

PGA Tour wins (64)

Major championships are shown in bold.


Other wins

this list is probably incomplete

Major championships

Wins (9)

Year Championship 54 Holes Winning Score Margin Runner(s)-up
1946 PGA Championship n/a 6 & 4 n/a Ed Oliver
1948 U.S. Open 2 shot lead -8 (67-72-68-69=276) 2 strokes Jimmy Demaret
1948 PGA Championship (2) n/a 7 & 6 n/a Mike Turnesa
1950 U.S. Open (2) 2 shot deficit +7 (72-69-72-74=287) Playoff 1 George Fazio, Lloyd Mangrum
1951 The Mastersmarker 1 shot deficit -8 (70-72-70-68=280) 2 strokes Skee Riegel
1951 U.S. Open (3) 2 shot deficit +7 (76-73-71-67=287) 2 strokes Clayton Heafner
1953 The Mastersmarker (2) 4 shot lead -14 (70-69-66-69=274) 5 strokes Ed Oliver
1953 U.S. Open (4) 1 shot lead -5 (67-72-73-71=283) 6 strokes Sam Snead
1953 The Open Championship Tied for lead -2 (73-71-70-68=282) 4 strokes Antonio Cerdá, Dai Rees,

Frank Stranahan, Peter Thomson
Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958

1 Defeated Mangrum and Fazio in 18-hole playoff: Hogan (69), Mangrum (73), Fazio (75)

Results timeline

Tournament 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
The Mastersmarker DNP DNP DNP DNP T25 9
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP R16

Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
The Mastersmarker T10 DNP 2 NT NT NT 2 T4 T6 DNP
U.S. Open T5 T3 NT NT NT NT T4 T6 1 DNP
The Open Championship NT NT NT NT NT NT DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship QF QF QF NT DNP DNP 1 R64 1 DNP

Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
The Mastersmarker T4 1 T7 1 2 2 T8 CUT T14 T30
U.S. Open 1 1 3 1 T6 2 T2 DNP T10 T8

Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967
The Mastersmarker T6 T32 38 DNP T9 T21 T13 T10
U.S. Open T9 T14 DNP DNP DNP DNP 12 T34

NT = No tournament

DNP = Did not play

WD = Withdrew

CUT = missed the half-way cut

R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play

"T" indicates a tie for a place

Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.


  • Starts - 57
  • Wins - 9
  • 2nd place finishes - 6
  • Top 3 finishes - 17
  • Top 5 finishes - 20
  • Top 10 finishes - 39
  • Longest streak of Top 10s in majors - 18

See also


  1. Golf Legends - Ben Hogan
  2. BW Online | June 18 2004 | The Hard Life of a Golfing Great
  3. The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.
  4. Golf Digest magazine, January 2005
  5. Golf Digest, April 2004
  6. Golf Digest, January 2005
  7. James Wagner - Are the yips more than something in the head?
  8. Internet Movie Database
  9. Golf Magazine, September 2009.
  • "Ben Hogan: "Players Were Afraid"" (1999). In ESPN SportsCentury. Michael MacCambridge, Editor. New York: Hyperion ESPN Books. pp. 142–3.
  • "Ben Hogan: An American Life" (2004). James Dodson. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50312-1.

External links

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