Ben Hogan's Miraculous Recovery from a Horrific Car Crash
Ben Hogan: The Legend of Golf
If you are a fan of golf, you have probably heard of Ben Hogan. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, as well as one of the most influential teachers of golf swing theory. He won nine major championships, tied for fourth all-time with Gary Player, and is one of only five players to have won all four majors: the Masters Tournament, The Open Championship, the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship. He also survived a near-fatal car accident that left him with severe injuries and defied the odds by making a remarkable comeback to win three more majors after that.
But who was Ben Hogan and how did he become such a legend? In this article, we will explore his life story, his professional career, his legacy and influence on golf, and some interesting facts about him. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why Ben Hogan is considered one of the best golfers ever.
Early life and character
Ben Hogan was born on August 13, 1912, in Stephenville, Texas. He was the third and youngest child of Chester and Clara Hogan. His father was a blacksmith and the family lived in Dublin until 1921, when they moved to Fort Worth. When Hogan was nine years old, his father committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot at the family home. Some biographers have suggested that this traumatic event may have contributed to Hogan's introverted personality in later years.
The family faced financial difficulties after his father's death, and the children had to take jobs to help their mother make ends meet. Hogan's older brother Royal quit school at age 14 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 age 11 at Glen Garden Country Club, a nine-hole course seven miles south of Fort Worth. One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson, who would later become a tour rival and a lifelong friend. The two tied for the lead at the annual Christmas caddie tournament in December 1927, when both were 15.
Hogan developed a passion for golf while caddying at Glen Garden. He practiced relentlessly on his own time, using clubs he borrowed or bought cheaply. He also learned from observing other golfers, especially the club professional Henry Picard, who gave him some tips and encouragement. Hogan dropped out of high school during his senior year to pursue a career as a professional golfer. He struggled for several years, playing in minor tournaments and working as an assistant pro at various clubs. He also married Valerie Fox, his high school sweetheart, in 1935. She would become his loyal partner and manager throughout his career.
Hogan's professional career spanned from 1930 to 1971, although he played only sporadically after 1959. He won 64 PGA Tour events, ranking fourth all-time behind Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus. He also won nine major championships, ranking fourth all-time behind Nicklaus, Woods, and Walter Hagen. He is one of only five players to have won all four majors, along with Nicklaus, Woods, Player, and Gene Sarazen. His first major win came at age 34.
Hogan's career was remarkable not only for his achievements, but also for the challenges he overcame. He had to deal with the interruption of World War II, which took him away from golf for three years. He also had to recover from a near-fatal car accident in 1949, which left him with multiple fractures and internal injuries. He defied the doctors' predictions and returned to golf in 1950, winning six more majors after that.
Hogan won his first PGA Tour event in 1938, at the Hershey Four-Ball, partnering with Vic Ghezzi. He had a breakthrough year in 1940, when he won four events and led the money list for the first time. He repeated this feat in 1941 and 1942, winning six and three events respectively. He also won his first Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average in 1940 and again in 1941.
Hogan's first major title came in 1946, at the PGA Championship, which was then a match play event. He defeated Ed Oliver 6 and 4 in the final at Portland Golf Club. He also won his second Vardon Trophy that year.
In 1948, Hogan won his second major title, at the U.S. Open at Riviera Country Club. He shot a final round of 69 to win by two strokes over Jimmy Demaret. He also won his third PGA Championship that year, defeating Mike Turnesa 7 and 6 in the final at Norwood Hills Country Club. He won ten events in total in 1948, setting a record that still stands today. He also won his third Vardon Trophy and was named PGA Player of the Year for the first time.
Hogan continued his dominance after World War II, winning 37 PGA Tour events and six majors between 1946 and 1953. His most impressive year was 1953, when he won five of the six events he entered, including three majors: the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, and The Open Championship. This feat became known as the "Hogan Slam" or the "Triple Crown". Hogan is the only player to have won three majors in one year twice (he also did it in 1951).
Hogan's victory at The Open Championship in 1953 was especially remarkable because it was his only appearance at the event. He traveled to Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland by boat and had to adjust to the different conditions and equipment. He shot a final round of 68 to win by four strokes over four players tied for second place. He received a hero's welcome from the British fans and media, who admired his skill and determination.
Hogan won his fourth and final U.S. Open title in 1953 as well, at Oakmont Country Club. He shot a record score of 283 to win by six strokes over Sam Snead. He also won his second Masters Tournament that year, by five strokes over Ed Oliver.
Hogan won his last major title in 1954, at the Masters Tournament again. He defeated Sam Snead by one stroke with a birdie on the final hole.
The car accident and the comeback
ipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots. He also suffered extensive damage to his left leg, which required several surgeries and skin grafts.
Hogan spent 59 days in an El Paso hospital after the accident before returning to his home, surviving a scare a month into his recovery when a blood clot traveled to his lung. He had to use a wheelchair and crutches for several months, and underwent physical therapy to regain his strength and mobility. He was told by the doctors that he might never walk again, let alone play golf.
But Hogan refused to give up on his dream. He resumed practicing golf in November 1949, hitting balls from a stool at first. He gradually increased his stamina and swing speed, despite experiencing constant pain and stiffness in his legs. He made his comeback to competitive golf in February 1950, at the Los Angeles Open. He tied with Sam Snead for first place after 72 holes, but lost in an 18-hole playoff by one stroke.
Hogan's comeback reached its peak in June 1950, at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. Playing with a reduced schedule due to his health, Hogan qualified for the event by shooting a 69 in the sectional qualifying at Riviera Country Club. He then shot rounds of 72, 71, 72 and 69 to tie with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio for first place after 72 holes. He won the 18-hole playoff by four strokes over Mangrum and six over Fazio, shooting a 69 despite having to play 36 holes on the final day.
Hogan's victory at Merion is widely considered one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. It was immortalized by a famous photograph of Hogan hitting a 1-iron approach shot to the 18th green in the final round, which became known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World". Hogan later said that it was "the best shot I ever hit and the most satisfying."
Legacy and influence
Besides his remarkable playing record, Hogan also left a lasting legacy and influence on golf through his swing theory, equipment design and course architecture. He is widely regarded as one of the best ball-strikers and most consistent players of all time, as well as one of the most knowledgeable and analytical students of the game.
The Hogan swing
Hogan's swing technique is considered one of the most efficient and effective in golf history. He developed it through years of practice and experimentation, based on scientific principles and biomechanics. He also refined it after his car accident, to compensate for his physical limitations.
Some of the key elements of Hogan's swing are: - A strong grip with both hands turned slightly to the right (for a right-handed player), which allowed him to control the clubface better and prevent hooks. - A wide stance with the feet flared out slightly, which gave him more stability and balance. - A one-piece takeaway with the arms and shoulders moving together, which created a smooth and rhythmic backswing. - A cupped left wrist at the top of the backswing, which prevented him from overswinging and maintained a good angle between the club shaft and the left arm. - A lateral shift of the hips toward the target at the start of the downswing, which initiated a powerful weight transfer and generated more speed. - A delayed release of the club until after impact, which ensured a solid contact and a penetrating ball flight. - A supination of the left hand (turning it clockwise) through impact, which squared the clubface and prevented slices. - A high finish with both arms fully extended, which completed a balanced follow-through.
Hogan explained his swing technique in detail in his books and articles, especially in his classic instructional book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, published in 1957. He also demonstrated it in his film Ben Hogan's Secret, released in 1965. His swing has been studied and emulated by countless golfers and instructors ever since.
The Hogan equipment
Hogan was also very particular about his equipment. He used clubs and balls that suited his swing style and preferences. He also experimented with different designs and specifications to improve his performance.
Some of the features of Hogan's equipment are: - A set of irons with a progressive offset, which reduced the tendency to hook the ball. He also preferred a thin top line and a small clubhead, which gave him more control and feedback. - A driver with a persimmon wood head and a steel shaft, which he could shape the ball with. He also used a low-lofted driver (about 8 degrees) to hit low and penetrating drives. - A balata-covered ball with a wound core, which gave him more spin and feel. He also used a smaller ball (1.62 inches in diameter) than the standard size (1.68 inches), which he believed flew farther and straighter.
Hogan started his own company, Ben Hogan Golf, in 1953, to produce clubs and balls that met his high standards. He was involved in every aspect of the design and manufacturing process, and personally tested and approved every product. His company became one of the leading brands in golf equipment, known for its quality and craftsmanship.
The Hogan courses
Hogan also had an impact on golf course architecture. He played and won on some of the most famous and challenging courses in the world, such as Augusta National, Carnoustie, Merion, Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and Riviera. He also designed or influenced some of the courses that bear his name, such as Colonial Country Club, Shady Oaks Country Club and The Trophy Club.
Some of the characteristics of Hogan's courses are: - A strategic layout that rewards accuracy and shot-making over distance and power. - A variety of holes that test different aspects of the game, such as driving, iron play, short game and putting. - A fair but demanding challenge that penalizes mistakes but offers opportunities for recovery. - A natural and aesthetic design that blends with the surrounding landscape and environment.
Ben Hogan was one of the greatest golfers of all time. He overcame adversity and hardship to achieve success and fame in his chosen sport. He won 64 PGA Tour events and nine major championships, including all four majors. He also survived a near-fatal car accident and made a miraculous comeback to win six more majors after that.
Hogan also revolutionized golf swing theory, equipment design and course architecture. He developed a swing technique that is considered one of the most efficient and effective in golf history. He also produced clubs and balls that met his high standards and preferences. He also played and designed courses that challenged and inspired golfers of all levels.
Hogan's life story, professional career, legacy and influence on golf are worthy of admiration and respect. He is a legend of golf who will always be remembered and honored by golf fans around the world.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers related to Ben Hogan:
What was Ben Hogan's secret?
Ben Hogan's secret was a term coined by golf writers and fans to describe his swing technique, which he kept private for many years. He revealed his secret in his book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, published in 1957. His secret was a supination of the left hand (turning it clockwise) through impact, which squared the clubface and prevented slices.
How many times did Ben Hogan win the Masters?
Ben Hogan won the Masters Tournament twice, in 1951 and 1953. He also finished second four times, in 1942, 1946, 1954 and 1955.
How did Ben Hogan die?
Ben Hogan died on July 25, 1997, at age 84. He suffered a stroke in 1995, which left him partially paralyzed. He died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, surrounded by his family.
What clubs did Ben Hogan use?
Ben Hogan used clubs that he designed or influenced himself. He used a set of irons with a progressive offset, a driver with a persimmon wood head and a steel shaft, and a balata-covered ball with a wound core. He also used clubs from his own company, Ben Hogan Golf, which he founded in 1953.
Where is Ben Hogan buried?
Ben Hogan is buried at Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth, Texas. His grave is marked by a simple headstone with his name, dates of birth and death, and the inscription "He gave more than he received".