Deconstructing Peter May's "The Open Question" - Part 1: Misrepresentations, Omissions and Myths

Jun 16, 2021

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

- Slogan popularly attributed to Abraham Lincoln

 

"Part 3: The Advocates" of the "Hogan, the Hale America and the Myth of the 'Fifth Open'" series examined the arguments made on Hogan's behalf by supporters of his "fifth Open" claim. On May 12, Peter May joined the "fifth Open" advocates with the publication of The Open Question: Ben Hogan and Golf's Most Enduring Controversy. This article is the first of a two examining May's work. 

For those who haven't already, I recommend first reading the "Hogan, the Hale America and the Myth of the 'Fifth Open'" series, linked here: Myth Part 1  Myth Part 2  Myth Part 3

Disclosure: I first became acquainted with Peter May in November 2017, when he contacted me and asked for some assistance on this project, which I provided and he acknowledges on page xviii, and references on pages 104 and 105. We have not corresponded in over a year.
Those hoping that May has uncovered new "smoking gun" evidence in support of the "fifth Open" claim or has crafted a novel set of bulletproof arguments will be disappointed. Instead, he recycles the claims and arguments already made by Hogan and the "fifth Open" advocates that were covered and debunked in Myth Part 2 and Myth Part 3

In this article, I analyze and comment on the misrepresentations, omissions and myths that underlie May's arguments in favor of the "fifth Open" claim. "Part 2: Factual Errors" is an errata of May's misstatements of fact as well as minor omissions not covered in this article, listed by page: May Part 2

WHAT GORILLA?

In the course of his text, May advances nearly every argument put forth by Hogan and the advocates discussed in Myth Part 2 and Myth Part 3.  At the same time, like those who came before him, May ignores the 800 pound gorilla in the room: since there was no US Open title at stake, and every participant, including Hogan, knew it, how could the Hale America possibly be considered a US Open?

Peter is a sportswriter from Boston who covered the great championship teams of the Boston Celtics, so he certainly understands the difference between a championship title game and a regular season game: the prestige and financial rewards of a championship are vast, which heightens the players' preparation, effort and focus. Regardless, he appears to ignore that the same holds true in professional golf and proceeds as if an event where the championship title is not at stake can nevertheless be viewed as a championship. But the players certainly didn't feel that way.

As discussed in Myth Part 1, the pros threatened a boycott because without the "National Open" title as the prize there would be no accompanying prestige or financial rewards. Myth Part 2 documents Hogan's knowledge prior to the event that the Hale America was not the same thing as the National Open, as well as his belief, expressed during the event, that it was "just another tournament." And in Myth Part 3, it was shown as many as nine top players chose to skip the Hale America, a defection unthinkable for a US Open. May omits any discussion of those inconvenient facts.

Not surprisingly, May also sidesteps the absence of "US Open pressure." It should go without saying that if no US Open championship title is at stake, the concurrent "US Open pressure" would be missing. Tellingly, Hogan's demeanor during his second round 10-under par 62 suggests he was not feeling anything approaching "US Open pressure":

Few persons have ever seen Hogan talk during a round of competition. Yesterday he was smiling and chatting all over the place...1

And, without "US Open pressure," how could playing in the Hale America possibly be considered equivalent to a US Open? May never addresses that question, either. 

WHAT DID BEN HOGAN BELIEVE AND WHEN DID HE BELIEVE IT?

Promotional material for the book leads with this declaration:

Golfing legend Ben Hogan went to his grave believing he had won a record five US Open titles.

A similar statement, also presented as fact, is repeated in the "Prologue":

Hogan went to his grave believing he had won ten major professional golf championships, including a record five US Open titles. (page xiii) 

But is May's claim an undisputed fact? No, it is not. May knows, and intentionally omits, that the following was reported as Hogan's reply in 1992 (five years before his death) when Ben was asked point-blank if he thought the Hale America was his "fifth Open":

"I'm not sure I know what you mean," Hogan finally said. "It didn't even have the same name, did it?"2

May makes similarly unqualified assertions that Hogan "always believed" the Hale America should count as a "real" US Open:

In [Hogan's] mind, his triumph there deserves to be officially recognized for what it was and for what he always thought it should be. (page xv)

But Hogan always believed that the Hale America should have counted as a legitimate US Open. (page 111)

A half-century after Ridgemoor, Hogan was still convinced that the five medals he had in his possession constituted five US Open victories. (page 120) 

As documented in Myth Part 2, on several occasions spanning decades, Hogan acknowledged the Hale America was not a US Open, but May doesn't mention any of them. One of the more revealing instances happened during the tournament itself, as recounted by the 1941 US Open champion Craig Wood:  

Even Ben Hogan, who played fine golf to win, felt that it was just another tournament. We had the same score after the opening round, 72. We rode up the elevator together, that night, and Ben said, "Well, if I lose this one, there's always something else next week."3

Another revealing admission by Hogan occurred nearly 20 years later, during a locker room interview at the 1961 Masters: 

[S]ome of the scribes who have known [Hogan] a long time finally got around to asking some pointed and even personal questions.

One of them went something like this: "Do you feel you've won five National Opens since at the time all the newspapers said that you won the tournament that was the successor to the National Open?"

"Well," smiled the Hawk at the memory of his first "national" championship, "I got a medal, the same kind I got when I won the four Opens. Joe Dey (executive director of the United States Golf association which stages the Open) says I won five."

"BEN, WHEN you now read in the papers that Ben Hogan is now going for an unprecedented fifth Open victory, do you silently say to yourself 'six'?"

That brought a real guffaw, and when he finally quieted down, the Texan answered: "No, I won only four. I'm glad the record books don't have me down for five."[emphasis in original]4

And three decades after that, as mentioned above, Hogan appears to have capitulated completely: "It didn't even have the same name, did it?" 

SAY, PETER, DID YOU CHECK WITH FRANK HANNIGAN ON THAT?

Throughout The Open Question, May attacks the USGA based on his conviction the USGA denied the Hale America US Open status because of aspects that degraded the event, in particular the toothless Ridgemoor. May sets the stage in the "Prologue" on page xiv:

This book will examine Hogan's claims by revisiting that weekend in June 1942 and challenging some of the assertions that the Hale America was not worthy of a US Open.

May leaves no doubt the feeble Ridgemoor was the primary basis of the denial. From page 29:

...the USGA always insisted that the Hale America could not have been an "official" US Open because Ridgemoor had not offered a sufficient challenge for a typical US Open. But that was an after-the-fact assessment.

And in a recent interview with the World Golf Hall of Fame: 

But the main reason the USGA continues to cite is the site, Ridgemoor Country Club, was not deemed to be a legitimate U.S. Open venue.5

Somewhat surprisingly, May makes these emphatic assertions with nothing credible to back them up. He does not cite any documentation or records that show the USGA "always insisted" Ridgemoor was the determining factor, nor does he provide any evidence the USGA "continues to cite" Ridgemoor as the "main reason" the Hale America isn't a US Open. To the contrary, as documented in Myth Part 3Golfweek's Charley Stine reported in 1990 that then USGA Executive Director David Fay cited minutes from 1942 that made it "quite clear that the intent of the executive committee was never to have the Hale America take the place of the U.S. Open." Nothing about Ridgemoor.

The only evidence May offers is a conversation the late Dan Jenkins claimed to have had with the USGA's Joe Dey over 50 years ago. In the "Acknowledgments" on page xvii, May recalls that he first heard of Hogan's "fifth Open" claim through Jenkins, and, after he corresponded with Dan "a few times," he "became determined to tell this story." But, despite very good reasons to do so, May appears to have done nothing to verify whether Jenkins' story is true: he simply presents it as fact. That was a mistake. May writes on page 104:

The late Dan Jenkins, who spent much of his golf writing career championing the Hale America as an official US Open, posed the question to the USGA Executive Secretary Joe Dey in the 1960s. Why, Jenkins wondered, wouldn't the USGA award a fifth Open to Hogan?

"I would love to give Ben a fifth Open," Dey told Jenkins. "However, the lack of suitable course preparation at Ridgemoor prevents it from being official." Dey said there wasn't sufficient manpower to transform Ridgemoor into a USGA-approved venue. The rough wasn't thick enough. The greens weren't slick enough. He said "the length and design of Ridgemoor" was acceptable and then added, "but I do count it as a major for Ben."

But what May wrote is not the complete conversation Jenkins reported. In the "Bibliography" on page 166, May lists Jenkins' 2014 book His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir, which contains the Dey story (the other two Jenkins books cited do not). What follows appears to be the complete text May is quoting from:

Joe said, "Interlachen in Minneapolis was scheduled to hold the '42 Open, but the club withdrew after the war started. When Ridgemoor offered to hold a wartime version, we were delighted. The length and design of Ridgemoor were acceptable, but there was a manpower shortage. We couldn't prepare the course properly. I would love to give Ben a fifth Open. However, the lack of suitable course preparation prevents it from being official. But I do count it as a major for Ben."6

The first two sentences are contradicted by actual events Dey was part of, something May must have realized, and cast doubt on the credibility of the entire passage. In May's own retelling of the event's genesis (pages 11 through 13), Interlachen did not withdraw "after the war started," it was replaced after the US Open was canceled and the CDGA persuaded the USGA to co-sponsor the Hale America in Chicago. Similarly, Ridgemoor did not offer "to hold a wartime version." The CDGA's Tom McMahon was the driving force behind holding the fundraiser in Chicago and, while Ridgemoor was always the front runner, its selection as host club was not official until nearly a week after the proposed event had been announced.

Another troubling aspect is Joe Dey's purported statement: "the lack of suitable course preparation at Ridgemoor prevents it from being official." That doesn't line-up with what Dey said on the record in 1942; on page 13, May quotes Dey from January 22:

"The tournament will not be a championship, as the USGA has decided its usual national championships should not be properly held in wartime," Dey said.

The USGA provided May (and me) with some later clippings from 1942 that also quote Dey on this topic. In one of them, from May 14, Dey explained the difference between a "national championship" and a "national open tournament":

"The Hale America Open tournament is not a national championship," Dey explained. "because war conditions have removed the championship aspect. However, it is a national open tourney; hence the total [number of entries] may go into the books as an open record."7

In another article, published on the eve of the event, June 17, Dey added another justification for the USGA's cancelation of its national championships: holding them would have greatly diminished the proceeds raised for the war effort:

To be factual about it, [by canceling its four national championships] the [USGA] had given up some 60 per cent of its income--a matter of $25,000 a year--but the public wondered if it would not have turned out better to have carried on the major tournaments and turned the money over to war agencies.

To all comers, Executive Secretary Joe Dey had a stock reply: "We feel that we can do better things than hold championships. We don't think these are appropriate times for that sort of thing. If we would have held an Open this year, the war funds would have realized fishcakes."

And so the USGA stuck by its guns. In the place of the Open it conceived the "Hale America" championship, which opens tomorrow at the Ridgemoor Country Club.8

Nary a word from Dey about "a manpower shortage."

In write-ups of Hogan's US Open wins published in the USGA's magazine, the Hale America victory is mentioned in two of them, both times without any implication the event was a disgraced, cast-aside US Open. In the July 1950 issue, the USGA's John Ames, Chairman of the Championship Committee, wrote matter-of-factly:

Hogan holds a unique position. He has won two Open Championships and the war-time Hale America Open.9

In the July 1951 issue, then USGA Executive Secretary Joe Dey elaborated a bit in his article:

In case you have forgotten, [Hogan] also won the 1942 "Hale America National Open Golf Tournament," a war-time substitute for the Championship, which the USGA co-sponsored with the Chicago District Golf Association and the Professional Golfers' Association of America, for benefit of Navy Relief Society and United Service Organizations. Hogan had 72-62-69-68--271 at Ridgemoor, Chicago, to win that one. Yes, it was 62 in the second round.10

In the July 1953 issue, the now USGA Executive Director Joe Dey did not mention the Hale America in his article titled "How to Win the Open Four Times." The article begins:

In accepting the Open Championship Cup for the fourth time, Ben Hogan revealed a few of the ingredients which he considers important in his winning formula.

The following appears at the bottom of the first page of the article:

Although par is never a precise gauge, the fact is that in his four winning Opens Hogan has played 17 rounds--306 holes--in exactly even par. The details follow:11

Not many years after the conversation between Jenkins and Dey supposedly took place, Golf Digest's Nick Seitz quoted Dey in his article "Did Hogan really win a fifth U.S. Open?," published in the July 1972 issue. What Seitz reported doesn't line-up with Jenkins' story, either:

Says Dey: "I couldn't be disloyal to the USGA and call it a U.S. Open." Then he adds, "But the only difference was the name."12

If the name was the "only difference," what about "The rough wasn't thick enough. The greens weren't slick enough"? Don't look to May for an answer.

I sent to the USGA's Senior Historian, Victoria Nenno, the passage quoting Jenkins' conversation with Dey, and asked if there was anything in its records documenting Dey's alleged comments, or anything that showed "the lack of suitable course preparation" reasoning was ever the USGA's position. The answer was "no" to both. 

Interestingly enough, the first time the Jenkins/Dey story came to the attention of former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan was in 1997, six years after Dey had passed away. Hannigan started working at the USGA in 1961 while Dey was Executive Director (Dey would leave in 1968) and ultimately became Executive Director in 1983. Frank left the USGA in November 1988 and pursued a second career in golf media, with stints at ABC Sports and Golf Digest. Hannigan passed away in 2014.

In the correspondence below, Hannigan appears to have been asked by someone at Golf Digest whether Jenkins' story involving Dey is "fact or fiction." His immediate answer was "fiction," but later adds:

I've never heard this "can't count it" bullshit before.

Since the contents of the entire document will no doubt be of interest to many, I have included it in full. Hannigan specifically addresses Ridgemoor in the paragraphs boxed in red; the addressee is Peter McCleery, an editor at Golf Digest:

The USGA confirmed to me that Hannigan's comments in 1997 accurately reflect its position today.  

WHEN IS A USGA STATEMENT NOT A USGA STATEMENT?

Without the Jenkins/Dey tale as a foundation, the centerpiece of May's book, "Chapter 7: Controversy: When Is a US Open Not a US Open?," collapses. In that chapter, May goes well beyond "Ridgemoor was too easy" as the supposed reason the USGA denied the Hale America US Open standing. Citing something he labels the "USGA statement," May contends the USGA viewed (unreasonably, of course) the presence of co-sponsors, differences in the medal, differences in the format, the weak field and low scoring as additional reasons the Hale America was "not worthy." But, with no proof the USGA ever affirmatively "took away" Hogan's US Open title for any reason, the entire discussion is moot, as Frank Hannigan indicated in 1997:

The issue of whether Ridgemoor was a good or bad course, or whether it had rough, is irrelevant.

Even worse for May, what he identifies as the "USGA statement" is no such thing. May introduces the so-called "statement" on page 109:

In April 2020 the CDGA wrote the USGA requesting a restating of its position that the tournament was not an official US Open. It was for an article that was to run in the organization's June 2020 publication. The USGA responded with a lengthy statement outlining its reasons.

May then reproduces the "statement" in full:

The answer lies in the historical context of the tournament and the tournament’s auspices, format and field, rather than Hogan’s gold Hale America medal.

In early 1942, the USGA made a very clear announcement to the world: there would be no USGA championships for 1942. The USGA cancelled its four championships in order to devote its full efforts to war relief, as the usual events would be “hollow and improper.” The Association declared the main aim of golfers and golf organizations would be to contribute the greatest possible service to the nation for the duration for the war.

The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament was billed as a singular tournament held in July 1942 to raise money for the war effort and celebrate “the American spirit.” Its purpose was not to determine a national champion. It was co-sponsored by the USGA, PGA of America and the Chicago District of Golf in support of a larger movement.

Even before the United States officially entered World War II, the Hale America Program existed as a national campaign intended to have all civilians become more involved in athletics, as well as to improve morale across the country. It involved not just golf, but many other sports. John B. Kelly, the Assistant U.S. Director of Civilian Defense in Charge of Physical Fitness suggested to the USGA that they host a series of “Hale America” Tournaments on Memorial Day Weekend, Independence Day and Labor Day, to further physical fitness and raise funds for the Red Cross. In January 1942, the USGA Executive Committee resolved to follow Kelly’s request. This was a special request under unusual circumstances that aligned with the USGA’s intentions to serve the nation during war.

The Hale America Open was just one of many ways the Association aimed to serve the country in 1942. Using their position as the game’s governing body, the USGA coordinated with local and national government agencies and public and private golf clubs to support the war effort. For example, the USGA also sponsored a series of Pearl Harbor Tournaments in 1942 to raise money for war relief in Hawaii (eventually using a portion of the funds to purchase an ambulance for the Hawaiian Chapter of the American Red Cross in 1943).

With this historical context for the tournament, as well as the USGA’s clear cancelation of their official championships for 1942, the Hale America Open cannot be considered a U.S. Open.

The additional evidence is that the auspices, field and format were inconsistent with a U.S. Open. The Hale America Open was hosted by the USGA, the PGA of America and the Chicago District of Golf, whereas every U.S. Open prior had only been hosted by the USGA. The field was unusual as celebrities such as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were invited to participate as exempt qualifiers (they did not participate), and Bob Jones emerged from a 12-year retirement to assist in boosting entries and ticket sales. The tournament’s format did not include a 36-hole cut, but did include several side events such as a long drive competition and trick-shot exhibition.

The prizes are perhaps the most telling. Much of the confusion regarding the tournament being considered a U.S. Open is due to Hogan’s Hale American gold medal appearing nearly identical to a the gold medal presented to U.S. Open champion. This is because the medal was intended to be presented to the winner of the canceled 1942 U.S. Open. The medal had already been created and there were many wartime cutbacks and rations in place, so it was repurposed for the Hale America. The engraving on the back of the medal reads “Hale America National Open Tournament” and notes the purpose of the tournament. The U.S. Open trophy, emblematic of the championship and presented to every U.S. Open champion since 1895, was not presented to Hogan. It remained with the 1941 U.S. Open champion, Craig Wood.

In conclusion, the Hale America Open has never been considered a U.S. Open. When one looks at the historical context for the tournament, the auspices, format, field and prizes, it is difficult to consider it more than what it was: an collective effort by golf organizations to support a nation at war. However, the Hale America was successful in its purpose, delivering funds for the war effort, inspiring participation in golf and boosting morale among Americans. The Hale America, and all other activities conducted for the greater good during World War II should be celebrated and serve an example for our generation that every sacrifice and contribution during times of suffering is valuable.

Finally, Hogan’s victory at the Hale America should still be considered a great achievement. His impressive performance against some of the decade’s top players should not be diminished though the Hale America was not a USGA championship. His participation and his victory elevated interest in the tournament and its historical importance.

Hogan later served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became one of the USGA’s greatest champions, a player with immense skill, focus and courage. Consistent with that, Hogan’s Hale America Open medal is on permanent display in the USGA Golf Museum’s Ben Hogan Room. His dog tags, flight book and other materials used during his military service are also in the collection, preserved so future generations may discover the life and achievements of one of golf’s greatest players.

After reading the "statement" (which, in this context, the dictionary defines as "a formal oral or written declaration, especially with regard to facts or claims"),13 I contacted the USGA's Nenno about what I thought were some ambiguities, and asked for clarification. Her reply surprised me:

We provided that information as background information not as an official statement.

At the time I emailed her, Nenno had not yet read May's book and did not know the 911-word tract of background information had been included and labeled the "USGA statement." In response, I asked Victoria for the USGA's "official statement," which the USGA's Craig Annis, its Chief Brand Officer, promptly sent to me (and totals just 66 words):

In early 1942, the USGA made a very clear announcement that there would be no USGA championships for 1942. The USGA cancelled its four championships in order to devote its full efforts to war relief, as the usual events would be ‘hollow and improper.’ With the USGA’s clear cancelation of their official championships for 1942, the Hale America Open cannot be considered a U.S. Open.

Needless to say, the actual USGA statement does not cite Ridgemoor, or any other aspect of the Hale America, as something that "prevents it from being official." So, as far as chapter 7 is concerned, "never mind." 

WHEN IS A DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS A SWAN?

As you would expect, May argues the Hale America ought to be considered the "fifth Open" because it was similar in important ways to an "official" US Open, the "if it looks like a duck..." argument advanced by the advocates and discussed at length in Myth Part 3. A photo caption states:

The USGA does not count the Hale America as an official US Open even though it conducted the tournament in almost exactly the same format.

On page 112, May writes:

While it is undeniably correct that the USGA was one of the Hale America Tournament's three sponsors--not the sole sponsor, as in the case with the official US Open--it is also undeniably correct that the USGA ran the tournament almost exactly like it runs a US Open.

However, as outlined in Myth Part 3, there are at least two dozen differences between how the USGA conducted the Hale America and "real" US Opens, and, time after time, May fails to identify these differences, presumably to avoid undermining the "if it looks like a duck..." argument. They include:

1. Maximum handicap for amateur entries:

May writes on page 13: "The USGA charged a $5 entry fee for professionals and amateurs with a handicap of 6 or less," but omits that for the '41 and '46 US Opens the maximum handicap for amateur entries was 3. 

2. Exemptions for "top players":

May writes on page 13 that the "top players in the game all received special exemptions from qualifying," which included the 1942 Ryder Cup team, but omits those exemptions were a significant departure from prior US Opens, which typically only exempted the top 30 plus ties from the previous year's US Open.

3. Local qualifying:

May writes on page 13 "...the USGA did what it had done every year since 1924--stage qualifying rounds across the country, just like they did for regular US Opens," and again on page 112:

Hale America started with the two rounds of qualifying, the local qualifying in May and then the sectional qualifying at around a dozen sites in June. That is what happens every year around the country for those who are not exempt from qualifying.

May omits, or is perhaps unaware, that two rounds of qualifying was unprecedented in previous US Opens, and no US Open would have local qualifying, in addition to sectional qualifying, until 1959.

4. Exemption from local qualifying:

On page 15 May writes: "It exempted PGA Championship contests [sic] from the local, or first stage, of qualifying because the dates conflicted," but omits that in no previous US Open were professionals exempt from qualifying because dates conflicted with another event.

5. Admission fees at sectional qualifying:

On page 16, May writes: "The USGA also hoped to raise sufficient revenue from the second round of qualifying to pay the five top professionals. That money would come from admission fees." May omits that charging admission fees at sectional qualifying events had never been done at a US Open. 

6. Size of field:

On page 13, May writes the "[o]rganizers figured on an eventual field of around 100," but omits that the typical field at a US Open was around 170. May also omits that only 82 players were allowed into the field from the national qualifying versus ~140 at a typical US Open.

8. The front of the medal:

On page 113, May writes that "all five medals looked the same from the front." However, on page xiii, May describes how the medals look different from the front:

The only difference in the medal he received was the lack of a blue background for the group of stars on the front... 

That difference makes it easy to tell the medals apart:

8. The 1917 Patriotic Open Tournament:

May makes passing reference to Jock Hutchison's victory at the 1917 Patriotic Open Tournament (page 31), but offers no explanation why the Hale America ought to be considered an "official" US Open when the precedent "substitute" US Open conducted during the Great War was not. May also omits entirely that Hutchison, like Hogan, was awarded a "nearly identical" medal by the USGA for his victory at the fundraiser:

9. Other departures from US Open norms May omits entirely:

i. The "Old Guard":

The Hale America had an "Old Guard" division of veteran players who competed for a separate prize (won by PGA president Ed Dudley).

ii. The special invitations:

The Hale America tournament committee issued "special invitations" to professionals who were not exempt and did not attempt to qualify, or tried to qualify, but failed: Jim Turnesa, Tommy Armour and Ed Dudley.

iii. The second medal:

Although May mentions in passing that the Hale America winner would also claim the 1942 Chicago National Open title, he omits entirely that the CDGA's Tom McMahon's primary motivation in January 1942 was to secure the dates of the abandoned US Open for the 1942 staging of the Chicago Open. The fundraiser was an important, but secondary, goal for McMahon. May also omits entirely that at the presentation ceremony Hogan was awarded a separate medal recognizing that victory:

In the discredited chapter 7, May goes a step further, arguing that differences he believes the USGA used as reasons to "take away" Hogan's US Open are differences that shouldn't matter: the event should be considered an "official" US Open anyway. In so doing, May creates his own hybrid "if it looks like a duck..." test: "if it looks like a duck, but only counting similarities and ignoring differences..." That way he tries to convince his readers that the duck-billed platypus Hale America is in actuality a US Open swan. They both have a duck-like beak, right? So what if only one has wings, or one has four feet and the other two? Why can't the USGA just get over it and call the Hale America a swan?

The differences May argues should be ignored include:

1. No championship title or trophy awarded:

For Hogan it was the five medals that to him symbolized five US Opens. (page 111)

2. Co-sponsors:

But to use the "more than one sponsor" argument as a way to say the Hale America was not solely a USGA-run event, and thus not a US Open, is again, a distinction without a difference. (page 113)

3. Four days instead of three:

The sponsors of the Hale America wanted to raise as much money as possible, so it made sense to make it a four-day tournament with four separate gates. (page 113)

4. No cut (although, in this case, it isn't clear what May's argument is):

The tournament also had no cut, which meant there were plenty of golfers on the course over the weekend without a chance of winning. But one of those golfers was Bobby Jones. He likely would have made the cut anyway, but he was well out of it by the fourth round. (page 113)

5. Side events:

The addition of the so-called "side events"--if unseemly by US Open standards--did not detract from the quality of play. (pages 113 and 114) 

6. The field (more on this topic below):

The argument that the field was in some way compromised simply does not ring true. (page 115)

7. The impotent Ridgemoor:

The USGA's complaint, as Dey said, was that the organization lacked the manpower to sufficiently toughen up the course to its exacting standards for a US Open. But here's the fallacy behind that argument: so what? (page 115)

There were no such harsh words for Ridgemoor in 1942. The only complaint came from those who thought the US Open should be a punishing, confidence destroying, humility-building golf tournament. (page 116) 

It's worth noting that May omits, or is unaware, that the players, including reigning US Open champion Craig Wood, were voicing those very complaints, as documented in Myth Part 1, and here by the Associated Press' Gayle Talbot, who noted after the second round:

The professionals seem to gain little satisfaction from taking an easy course apart. They prefer one that fights back now and then.14 

8. Low scoring:

At Ridgemoor, 22 players finished under par. At Erin Hills, 31 players finished under par. At Pebble Beach in 2019, 31 players finished under par. So, the scores at Ridgemoor, in hindsight, don't look so eye-opening. And that is one more reason why the USGA should reconsider. 

Does it look like a swan yet?

WHEN IS EVERY OTHER PROMINENT PRO NOT EVERY OTHER PROMINENT PRO?

May contends the quality of the Hale America field was "exceptional," and any complaints about a "compromised" field are without merit. On page 23, May writes:

[Snead] went into the Navy as a second-class seaman and was the only big name missing from the event.

 On page 114, May writes:

The field for the Hale America was exceptional...

Every other prominent pro was there--Hogan, Nelson, Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, Little, Wood, the three Turnesas, Sarazen, Byrd, McSpaden.

From his interview with the World Golf Hall of Fame: 

Q. The USGA's statement in 2020 regarding the Hale America National Open has what you call "inconsistencies or convenient omissions." What do you believe are the most egregious of those?

A. By far it's the supposed lack of a quality field. Every major golfer of the era, except Sam Snead, was at the Hale America.15

Although the analyses in Myth Part 2 and Myth Part 3 are sufficient to show May is dead wrong about the relative quality of the field, I'm compelled to present one more analysis here.
 
Arguably, a player ranked in the top 15 for a full year should be considered a "big name," "prominent pro" or "major golfer." The table on the left highlights which top 15 players from the '39, '40 and '41 seasons were absent from the field at the 1941 US Open, while the table on the right highlights the top 15 players from '40, '41 and '42 missing from the Hale America. It's easy to see which field was "exceptional" and which one was not.

During the '39, '40 and '41 seasons, 23 different players were ranked in the top 15 for one or more years: the only one absent from the '41 US Open was Porky Oliver, who won the '41 Western Open in February, but was drafted in March. For the '40, '41 and '42 seasons, 24 players were ranked in the top 15 for one or more years, and 10 of those, Snead plus nine others, were missing from the Hale America, or over 40%.
The contrast is even worse when looking at the top 10 players for one or more of the three seasons: nine of 19, or nearly 50%, were missing from the Hale America.

In addition to the "big names," May claims that "virtually all" of the "colorful personalities" of the era were in the field:

In the early 1940s, professional golf had a number of colorful personalities, virtually all of whom played in the Hale America Tournament. (page xiv)

To highlight May's disregard for (or ignorance of) the facts, he describes two "colorful personalities" prominent enough to be included in the text, but who weren't in the Hale America field. May discusses Porky Oliver's unhappy experience at the 1940 US Open when he was denied a playoff spot by a controversial USGA ruling (pages 31 and 32), and covers in detail his runner-up finish to Hogan at the 1946 PGA (pages 132 through 134). But May doesn't mention the colorful Oliver (who was also runner-up at the 1952 US Open) wasn't among "every other prominent pro" who was at Ridgemoor.

On page 36, May quotes Jackie Burke:

"I modeled myself after (Clayton) Heafner and Mangrum and those kinds of guys," said Burke. "They were fierce competitors, bet their own money. They were gamblers and gamblers are the most perceptive people...All these guys were hustlers."

Clayton Heafner, who was runner-up in the 1949 and 1951 US Opens, was ranked by the PGA tour 13th, 6th and 11th in '40, '41 and '42, respectively, yet the colorful Heafner wasn't included with "every major golfer of the era, except Sam Snead." Neither were other top-ranked "colorful personalities" like Chick Harbert, Vic Ghezzi, Johnny Bulla, Dutch Harrison and Johnny Revolta.

While it's unlikely anyone would describe as "colorful personalities" 1946 Masters champion Herman Keiser or 1950 PGA champion Chandler Harper, both were ranked in the top 10 for 1942, and, as May relates on page 123, they teamed to win the 1942 Miami International Four-Ball in March, yet this pair wasn't among "every other prominent pro," either.

To top things off, May writes with a bizarre absence of logic that 1942 PGA champion Sam Snead's presence would make no contribution to the strength of the field:

You can make the case that Snead's presence would have livened things up, but you can't make the case his absence diminished the field at Ridgemoor. (page 114) 

IS TWO CONSIDERED A VALID SAMPLE SIZE?

In chapter 7, May includes a section titled "Players' Views," which purportedly analyzes whether or not the participants viewed the Hale America as a US Open. He begins on page 118 with:

We know how Hogan felt. 

As discussed above, May omits revealing accounts of Hogan acknowledging the Hale America was not an "official" US Open, including before and during the event, so his readers do not have a complete understanding of "how Hogan felt."

May continues:

We know how Bobby Jones felt, even with his illogical reasoning. (page 118)

May had quoted Jones a few pages earlier: 

Bobby Jones bemoaned the fact that the newly minted PGA champions Sam Snead and "Bud" Ward, the defending US Amateur champion, were not in the field and thus "it wouldn't be fair to call it a championship tournament and put the results in the record books." (page 114)

But May omitted important context when quoting Jones, and falsely implies Jones was opining on whether or not the Hale America was a US Open. When Jones made those comments on the eve of the event, Gene Sarazen was publicly arguing the USGA should reverse its decision made in January and award the US Open title to the winner of the Hale America. In response, Jones was endorsing the USGA's decision to not hold a US Open championship, arguing against making any change. Both Jones and Sarazen knew there was no US Open championship title at stake, as did all the other entrants, mooting the question of whether or not the Hale America was a US Open.

 May continues:

But how did the others feel?

To answer that question, May cites a 1992 article which quoted two participants: runner-up Mike Turnesa, who thought "It definitely was a US Open," and Paul Runyan, who said "But it was not, by any means, an Open championship layout." (pages 118 and 119) With just those two opinions, solicited 50 years after the fact, May declares the results "mixed," an egregious distortion of the actual record.

As discussed in Myth Part 1, contemporaneous accounts paint an overwhelmingly uniform view: the tour players knew it wasn't a US Open and were so upset about the USGA's decision they briefly threatened a boycott. Lending support to the pros was Gene Sarazen, who, as noted above, was lobbying the USGA to change its mind right up to the start of the event. Further, as also discussed in Myth Part 1, after Hogan won and tried to claim the event was a US Open, he got no visible support from his peers. If, as May implies, half the tour pros agreed Hogan had won a US Open, none of them said so when it counted most. 

ARE YOU SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE THOSE ARGUMENTS?

On page 108, May writes:

It goes without saying that had Otey Crisman won the Hale America, there would not have been a groundswell of Crismanistas urging the USGA to give Otey his first US Open. The same could probably be said for runners-up at Ridgemoor, Mike Turnesa and Jimmy Demaret.

May unwittingly reveals the fundamental dishonesty of the "fifth Open" claim and its advocates: their motivation is adoration of Hogan, not what is fair or logical. if an event is a US Open, it doesn't matter who wins it. Did the USGA deny Sam Parks or Jack Fleck the title because they were "not worthy"? If the advocates genuinely think the Hale America was a US Open, they should also think the 1917 Patriotic Open Tournament was a US Open, and be lobbying just as passionately on behalf of Jock Hutchison. But they aren't.

May continues:

But Ben Hogan won the USGA's main event in 1942. And it was Ben Hogan's victory that gave the tournament the prestige it may otherwise lacked...

May appears to be echoing Dan Jenkins' closing of his 1992 piece, "Pleading the Fifth":

I have only one last thing to ask: If it wasn't a U.S. Open in '42, how come Hogan won it?

The irony of that sentiment is in 1942 Hogan was infamous for his failures in the major championships, as discussed in Myth Part 1 and by the Chicago Tribune's Charles Bartlett in a 1951 profile, who recalled that Ben's playoff loss to Byron Nelson at the 1942 Masters "caused even his supporters to wonder if Ben might not be be one of those fellows destined to run second all his life, as far as the Big Ones were concerned."16 It could perhaps be more persuasively argued that Hogan being the victor in 1942 was proof the Hale America was not the equal of a US Open or major championship. 

"Part 2: Factual Errors" follows: May Part 2


 1. Eddie Butler, Ben Hogan's Luck Fails; Misses 59, The Akron Beacon Journal, June 20, 1942, page 10. 
 
2. The damning Hogan quote May omits is from an article Peter references on page 112: Charles Price, The Open That Never Was, Golf Digest, June 1992, pages 138-140, 143 and 144. The quote is repeated in Tim Cronin's Reflections on Ridgemoor on page 65, a book May lists in the "Bibliography" on page 165.

3. Bob Considine, On The Line, The Tribune, June 25, 1942, page 13.

4. Ben Garlikov, Masters Notes - Placing Pins Isn't A Whim, Dayton Daily News, April 9, 1961, page 13.

 5. Q&A with Peter May, author of "The Open Question: Ben Hogan and Golf's Most Enduring Controversy", World Golf Hall of Fame. https://www.worldgolfhalloffame.org/news/qa-with-peter-may-author-of-the-open-question-ben-hogan-and-golfs-most-enduring-controversy/

 6. Dan Jenkins, His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir, 2014, Google eBook pages 141-142.

7. Jack Cuddy, United Press, Hale America golf tourney draws many, The Beatrice Times, May 14, 1942, page 10.

8. Chester L. Smith, The Village Smithy, The Pittsburgh Press, June 17, 1942, page 22.

9. John D. Ames, The New Ben Hogan, USGA Journal, July, 1950, pages 9-11.

10. Joseph C. Dey, A Lesson from Hogan in the Open, USGA Journal and Turf Management, July, 1951, pages 5-9, 15.

11. Joseph C. Dey,How to Win the Open Four Times, USGA Journal and Turf Management, July, 1953, pages 11-13.

12. Nick Seitz, Did Hogan really win a fifth U.S. Open?, Golf Digest, July 1972, page 16.

13. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/statement

14. Gayle Talbot, Associated Press, Hogan Adds 62 To Par Round, Trails Mike Turnesa By Three, The Akron Beacon, June 20, 1942, page 10.

15.  Q&A with Peter May, author of "The Open Question: Ben Hogan and Golf's Most Enduring Controversy", World Golf Hall of Fame.  https://www.worldgolfhalloffame.org/news/qa-with-peter-may-author-of-the-open-question-ben-hogan-and-golfs-most-enduring-controversy/

 16. Charles Bartlett, I Knew Hogan When--, 1951 Ryder Cup program. 

Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.