Fifteen years after his death, Ben Hogan seems like every boy’s favorite Brady sister
Hogan, Hogan, Hogan. The man turns 100 this year, and he’s the only guy people want to talk about. Not just last week, with the Tour stop at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Hogan’s hometown. He’s everywhere.
Dan Jenkins was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last month, and he counted up his rounds with Hogan for the occasion. (Wouldn’t you?) At Merion, which is preparing for next year’s U.S. Open, people will cite Hogan’s response to the question of why he didn’t carry a seven-iron at the 1950 Open, which he won: “Because there are no seven-iron shots at Merion.” How pithy and intense. How Hogan.
He’s a god at Merion and also at Seminole, where he loved the practice field, to say nothing of Augusta National, Riviera and Shady Oaks.
The man is mono-named, iconic and alive. When Mike Donald talks about Hogan’s swing, it’s always in present tense. He’ll watch on YouTube and say, “See what Hogan does here: He actually starts clearing his lower body before he even finishes the backswing.” I spent a day in April with Dewey Arnette, a Florida teaching pro and golf whisperer who makes regular references to Hogan, “the ultimate warrior-worker,” in Dewey’s assessment.
During a February visit to Jonathan Byrd’s home in Sea Island, Ga., I saw no swing-sequence photos of Jack Nicklaus (18 majors) or Tiger Woods (14) or Walter Hagen (11). The hanging pictures are all of Hogan (nine).
Or 10 if you count his win in the Hale America National Open, which was held 70 years ago this summer, when the USGA decided not to have a U.S. Open after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Hale America concluded on Father’s Day 1942, and was held at the Ridgemoor Country Club outside Chicago. This year Ridgemoor will have a tournament that remembers the summer of ’42 and a 29-year-old light-footed Hogan.
Hank Haney, in The Big Miss, has 16 references to Hogan, including his observation that Woods refers to Hogan as Ben, as if they were contemporaries. Another book that came out this year, American Triumvirate by James Dodson, is about three late golfing giants, all born in 1912: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Hogan. Maybe you remember this iconic line from The Brady Bunch: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Golf has a better version of it: Hogan, Hogan, Hogan. You spend 84 years leading a unique life and people won’t let you leave the building. Hogan is our Elvis.