Hogan, the Hale America and the Myth of the "Fifth Open" - Part 3: The Advocates

Apr 12, 2021

We wuz robbed.

- Joe Jacobs, Madison Square Garden, June 21, 1932

 

Part 3 concludes this series and examines the arguments made on Hogan's behalf by supporters of his "fifth Open" claim. The other two parts of the series are here: Part 1  Part 2

Other than Jimmy Demaret's biography My Partner, Ben Hogan published in 1954, there were few, if any, public endorsements or defenses of Hogan's "fifth Open" claim made by third parties until the 1960s and '70s. One was included, in a peculiar way, in Tom Harmon's film biography of Hogan. The segment begins with Hogan, in an interview with Harmon, stating he still hopes to win a fifth US Open. Then Harmon appears alone and, speaking directly to the camera, adds this:

The record book shows he's won four [Opens] and tied for another. Actually, he has won five Open championships. In 1942, when the tour was called off because of the war, Ben won the Hale America tournament, played in Chicago and recognized as the Open championship of that year.1

Harmon provides no support for his assertion.

A defense presented in a more conventional fashion appeared in the July 1972 issue of Golf Digest, which featured an article by Nick Seitz titled "Did Hogan really win a fifth U.S. Open?" Seitz cites several arguments in making the case that the answer was "yes." One in particular was a new perspective from Jimmy Demaret:

Everything was U.S. Open flavor. The players all considered it the Open.2

Veteran golf writer Charles Price included a spirited defense of the "fifth Open" claim, with much chiding of the USGA, in his article titled "The Hawk" in the November 1975 issue of Golf magazine, as well as in his October 1981 Golf magazine column, "Memories of Ben Hogan."3

 After Jack Nicklaus lost his bid for a fifth US Open at Pebble Beach in 1982, the Associated Press' Sam Blair reminded readers of Hogan's "fifth Open" claim.4

In the June 1992 issue of Golf Digest, both "pro" and "con" articles were published. Interestingly enough, Charles Price authored the "con" piece, titled "The Open That Never Was," which was a complete 180 from his defenses published in '75 and '81. Sportswriter and unabashed Hogan booster Dan Jenkins wrote the "pro" piece, titled "Pleading the Fifth." 

Jenkins would become the most visible advocate of the "fifth Open" until his death in 2019, taking advantage of any opportunity to advance the cause. Jenkins put it this way in 2002:

Although it's a long shot that the USGA would ever reconsider and credit Hogan with a fifth Open title, Jenkins won't give up the fight.

"You don't know what the new generation of people are going to do," he said. "You're talking about people now who no longer wear button-down shirts and striped ties when they run a tournament. They now go off both tees at the U.S. Open. They're eventually going to do away with the 18-hole playoff because of television. They're unpredictable now when they used to be very predictable."5

Not among the advocates was noted golf writer Herbert Warren Wind, who collaborated with Hogan on the 1955 Life magazine article concerning the "secret" and the 1957 Sports Illustrated articles that formed the instruction book Five Lessons. In his seminal work, The History of American Golf, Wind devoted just this to Hogan's 1942 victory:

Ben also carried off the Hale America tournament, the ersatz National Open of 1942, with rounds of 72-62-69-68 which put him seven strokes ahead of his boyhood, and manhood, rival Byron Nelson.6

This is the definition of "ersatz" from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

1. Being a usually inferior imitation or substitute; artificial: ersatz coffee made of chicory.

2. Not genuine; fake: "Popularity was an intoxicant ... reporters began to ask for interviews and I gave them in an ersatz accent" (Maya Angelou).7 

Among the biographers, only Tim Scott, author of Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, devotes significant attention to the "fifth Open," penning nearly seven pages on the topic, and employing seemingly every argument imaginable in Hogan's defense.

In contrast, Gene Gregston in his 1978 biography Hogan: The Man Who Played for Glory makes no mention of the Hale America, and Curt Sampson in Hogan, Updated Edition is dismissive of the "fifth Open" claim:

Later Ben and his supporters--especially Dan Jenkins--would try to keep alive the fiction that this really had been a U.S. Open. It was not.9

In his "authorized" biography, Ben Hogan, An American Life, James Dodson notes factors in Hogan's favor included the Hale America medal "nearly identical in every way to those awarded to National Open champions" and "the strength of the field,"10 apparently accepting both at face value. 

In Miracle at Merion, David Barrett comes off as neutral, calling the Hale America a "'sort of' U.S. Open in 1942," and impartially noting "it had sectional qualifying, just like a U.S. Open--and Hogan did receive a medal from the USGA for his victory."11

Not surprisingly, niece Jacque Towery echos Hogan's primary appeals in The Brothers Hogan:

At the end of his career, Uncle Ben was credited with winning four US Opens, but he always felt he had won five because of his victory over a stellar field in the 1942 Hale America. He received the identical gold medallion given to the winner.12

With the passing of Dan Jenkins, publisher Martin Davis stepped into the role of "fifth Open" advocate last fall, authoring a piece in The New York Times with a novel argument centered on qualifying rounds, which the USGA omitted from the 2020 US Open because of the pandemic.13 How active he'll persist in that role remains to be seen.

Many of the third-party arguments go well beyond those presented by Hogan and most of his  biographers. Below I evaluate some of them; each is readily debunked.

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK...

Many advocates assert that the Hale America was essentially no different than prior US Opens, and, as a result, should be counted as one. For example, in Golf Film's documentary Hogan, Hogan collector John Seidenstein claimed the event "used the exact same format as the US Open."14 Publisher Martin Davis claimed the Hale America "had all the trappings of the U.S. Open."15 Dan Jenkins dwelled on the USGA's involvement, national qualifying, number of entrants, enforcement of USGA rules and, of course, the gold medal.16 Golf writer Ron Sirak asked rhetorically "If it walks like a U.S. Open and talks like a U.S. Open, isn’t it a U.S. Open, no matter what name it carries?"17

Perhaps the most significant of these assertions appeared in Nick Seitz's 1972 article, and was attributed to Joe Dey, who acted as executive assistant to tournament chairman Francis Ouimet:18

"I couldn't be disloyal to the USGA and call it a U.S. Open," [Dey] says. "But the only difference was in the name."19

But, when examined objectively, important differences did exist, and they far outweighed the similarities.

How the Hale America was similar to prior US Opens:

Without question the Hale America was similar to prior US Opens in some ways. It was an "open" event, meaning both amateurs and professionals could enter; it had sectional qualifying at sites across the country; it was conducted under USGA rules; USGA personnel were involved in administration and officiating; it was played on the same dates scheduled for the canceled 1942 US Open; and the medal intended for the winner of the 1942 US Open was "repurposed" for the Hale America. The Hale America also had a driving contest, which was customary at US Opens in that era.20

How the Hale America differed from prior US Opens:

As documented in Parts 1 and 2, the event differed from prior US Opens in several fundamental ways:

the Hale America had three sponsors, not just the USGA;

the Hale America was both a nationwide fundraiser as well as the 1942 staging of the Chicago Victory Open;

two medals were awarded to the winner: one for the fundraiser and one for the Chicago PGA tour event;

no medal inscribed "Open Championship" was awarded to the winner; and

the USGA Open Championship trophy was not presented to the winner with his name engraved on it.

The Hale America had different exemptions from qualifying than the US Opens that preceded and followed it. If the Hale America had been a US Open "in everything but name," the top 30 finishers from the 1941 US Open would have been exempt from qualifying, but they weren't. Only the winner of the 1941 US Open was exempt from qualifying.

Similarly, if the Hale America had been viewed by the USGA as the 1942 US Open, its top 30 finishers would have been exempt from qualifying for the first postwar US Open, held in 1946. However, no exemptions were extended to Hale America finishers. Instead, the top 30 finishers from the 1941 US Open were exempt from qualifying for the 1946 US Open.21

Since the primary objective of the event was fundraising, many decisions without precedent in prior US Opens were made to advance that purpose. Decisions intended to encourage entries and increase entry fees included:

the maximum handicap for amateur entrants was set at 6, double the cutoff at the '41 and '46 US Opens of 3;

the deadline for entries was extended by two days; and

a direct appeal was made to amateur golfers with a handicap of 6 or less to submit entries for this "good cause," as was a similar appeal to all PGA members.

In another move intended to encourage entries, the Hale America had two stages of qualifying tournaments, with "local" qualifying events at 69 sites in addition to the 14 "sectional" qualifying events mentioned above. No US Open would have two stages of qualifying until 1959.22  The addition of local qualifying prompted yet another novelty: PGA professionals who qualified for the PGA championship were exempt from local qualifying because the dates overlapped.

Just as the tournament sponsors took unprecedented steps to encourage entries, they implemented others without precedent to encourage attendance and admission charges. Those included:

a fourth day of competition was added by playing 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday, instead of  the usual two rounds on Saturday;

the 36-hole cut was eliminated, so no stars would be absent the final two days;

to accommodate the no-cut format, the starting field was reduced to around 100 from the typical 160;

exemptions were extended to winners of significant non-USGA events and the 1942 Ryder Cup team to avoid any of those top players failing to make it through qualifying;

"special" invitations were extended to popular non-exempt players who did not attempt to qualify, including singer Bing Crosby, or attempted to qualify but failed, e.g. Tommy Armour;

the course was not of championship caliber and was selected because of its proximity to Chicago and public transportation;

an "Old Guard" division of veteran players competed for a separate prize; 

CDGA handicap cardholders and their families were admitted to the clubhouse; and

"sideshows" were scheduled throughout the event, including a pro-celebrity four-ball exhibition; an iron accuracy contest in addition to the driving contest (in an unexpected twist, long-hitting Jimmy Thomson won both the long drive and iron accuracy events);23 a shotmaking clinic; a trick-shot exhibition; and a post-tournament auction of items donated by the top three finishers: Hogan's putter and golf ball (which raised $1,000 and $650, respectively), and the coats of runners-up Jimmy Demaret ($500) and Mike Turnesa ($300).24

The advocates ignore the precedent of the 1917 Patriotic Open Tournament:

While making "if it looks like a duck..." arguments, the advocates almost always ignore the precedent of the Patriotic Open Tournament held in 1917. Arguably, the Patriotic Open Tournament had more similarities to an actual US Open than the Hale America, and fewer differences. Like the Hale America, it was held the same week as the US Open had been scheduled, but, unlike Ridgemoor, Whitemarsh Valley was a championship quality course.

The USGA did not have any co-sponsors and ran the tournament by itself. There were no celebrities entered as an added attraction and the event was bereft of "sideshows." Similar to the Hale America medal, the one presented to winner Jock Hutchinson appeared to be the blank intended for the 1917 US Open winner and was inscribed on the back with the details of the replacement event.

Like Hogan, winner Jock Hutchinson was a worthy champion. However, to my knowledge, none of Hogan's advocates, nor anybody else, has campaigned for Hutchinson to be credited with a US Open victory because of his Patriotic Open Tournament win.

IT'S IN THE USGA RECORD BOOK

Some advocates have seized upon the Hale America being included in the USGA record book as a tacit admission by the USGA that the Hale America was, in fact, a US Open. This argument is sometimes accompanied by the false claim that the 1917 Patriotic Open Tournament was not included in the record book.25 

I have the edition of the USGA record book that includes all events through 1961. No part of the text devoted to the Hale America can reasonably be interpreted as even hinting that the Hale America was in reality a US Open. Included in the "History" section for Open Championships is this entry for the war years of the 1940s:26

This is the comparable entry for the years of the Great War:27

In the "Tabulation" section for Open Championships, the entries below appear for the war years of the 1940s and the Hale America:28

Below are the comparable entries for the years of the Great War and the Patriotic Open Tournament:29

In the "Annual Summaries" section for Open Championships, a summary for the Hale America is included; there is not, however, a comparable entry for the Patriotic Open Tournament:30

Nevertheless, if the Hale America had been a US Open, it would have the title "Forty-Sixth Open Championship," inasmuch as the 1941 US Open was the "Forty-Fifth Open Championship." However, the 1946 US Open is listed as the "Forty-Sixth Open Championship" and the Hale America is listed as the "Hale America National Open Golf Tournament."

 IT WASN'T HOGAN'S FAULT THE COURSE WAS TOO EASY

Some have advanced the claim that the USGA decided to deny the Hale America US Open status because, due to circumstances outside of its control, Ridgemoor was too easy. Jenkins wrote that Interlachen "backed out as the host club a few months after Pearl Harbor" and the war denied the USGA the workforce needed for the customary "severe course preparation" at Ridgemoor.31 From there the argument goes, since it wasn't Hogan's "fault" the course was too easy, it's not fair for the USGA to "take away" his US Open title.

The truth dismantles this argument. As documented in Part 1, the CDGA's involvement ruled out the Minneapolis club as a potential site, so there was nothing for Interlachen to "back out" of. Further, the selection of Ridgemoor was made on January 27, not even a week after plans for the tournament were announced, allowing five months for planning and execution of the event.32

 As for "severe course preparation" overseen by the USGA, at that time the course preparation was left to the host club: the USGA did not take on that role until a decade later.33 More importantly, there is nothing in the historical record that even suggests "severe course preparation" was desired by the USGA, the other co-sponsors or Ridgemoor.

IT WAS COVERED AS A MAJOR

Jenkins and others have argued, since the Hale America was covered by many sportswriters and newspapers as a "major title," it was, therefore, a US Open.34 However, the argument has no logic behind it. As documented in Part 1, sportswriters like Grantland Rice and Gayle Talbot, as well as PGA tournament manager Fred Corcoran, were explicit that, in their view, the Hale America was a major title, but not a US Open. None of the advocates explain why that characterization is no longer valid.

On the flip side, some have bizarrely claimed "the USGA decided then and still maintains today that the one-time event was not a major championship."35 It should go without saying neither the USGA nor any other governing body can dictate what is or isn't popularly viewed as a "major championship," and, even if it could, no evidence has been presented showing the USGA ever made such a declaration, nor any explanation offered for why it would object to the Hale America being viewed as a major. It's a baffling "argument."

It's my opinion Hogan and his advocates would have had a much better chance of success making the case the Hale America was Hogan's "forgotten major" and should be included as one of his major championships, increasing the count from nine to ten. But I don't believe Hogan was motivated by "major count." What Ben and, as a result, the advocates deeply wanted was five US Opens titles so he would pass the other four-time winners: Bobby Jones, Willie Anderson, and, eventually, Jack Nicklaus. Although many Hogan supporters embrace the "fifth Open" arguments, the facts are lined up against them. In contrast, the historical record supports the "major title" claim.

"THEY" DON'T WANT IT TO COUNT AS A US OPEN

Along the same lines as Hogan's "it's not fair" appeal, Jenkins and others have suggested there are those with vested interests who are standing in the way of what rightfully belongs to Hogan. Jenkins claimed a "fifth US Open" was "terribly inconvenient for certain historians," who hypocritically "count" Byron Nelson's "'wartime' Masters" and Snead's "'wartime' PGA" but won't "count" Hogan's wartime "National Open."36  

In addition to biased historians, Jenkins derided "USGA purists" who "refuse to count it."37 Jody Vasquez similarly wrote with disdain "I wish they would get over it, but it's the USGA, so nobody is surprised."38  Incredibly, Tim Scott makes a show of attacking the USGA's "logic" of including the Hale America in a list of Hogan's notable victories in a dinner program, but refusing to credit him with a fifth Open!39 None of these are legitimate arguments, just name-calling by the advocates directed at people they disagree with.

REWRITING HISTORY

As mentioned above, Nick Seitz in his 1972 Golf Digest article quoted Jimmy Demaret saying the following:

Everything was U.S. Open flavor. The players all considered it the Open.40

Other writers have produced similar quotes from other players, as well as dissenting voices.41

However, by their own words at the time, the players demonstrated that few, if any, considered the Hale America the equal of a US Open. Parts 1 and 2 documented evidence of this, including quotes from Craig Wood and Ben Hogan disparaging the tournament. Others, like Gene Sarazen, decried the USGA's decision to cancel the US Open, and some, like Bobby Jones, defended the USGA's actions. But it was acknowledged by all that the Hale America was not the US Open, except, of course, by Hogan, but only after he won it.

Significantly, Sarazen makes no mention of the Hale America in his evaluation of Hogan's record that appears in the Squire's autobiography, Thirty Years of Championship Golf, published in 1950 and co-authored by Herbert Warren Wind:

The competitive records of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson leave little to choose between the two rivals from Fort Worth; each has won one United States Open and two PGA championships. Ben has taken two Westerns to Byron's one. Byron has twice captured the Masters, a tournament that Ben has never been able to win. I think that in later years both will regret that they passed up taking a shot or two at the British Open in order to concentrate on the rich pots of the domestic circuit.42

Returning to Bobby Jones, some advocates cite his "coming out of retirement" to play in the Hale America as favorable to the "fifth Open" claim, but Jones was explicit he would not have entered "if it weren't for patriotic considerations,"43 and, as already documented, he publicly supported the USGA's decision.

In addition to their words, the player's actions show they did not consider the Hale America equal to the US Open. As shown in Part 2, 11 of the top players, nearly 40%, were absent from the Hale America field. Of the 11 missing, Snead was in the Navy, Oliver and Ghezzi were in the Army, and Herman Keiser missed qualifying with a knee injury.44 However, 10 of those 11, all except Snead, were in the Tam o' Shanter field a month later, in the same city, implying that as many as nine top players (boxed in red below) skipped the Hale America by choice and chose instead to play in the Tam, the opposite of what would be expected if "the players all considered it the Open."


In "The Esquire Sports Poll" article, writers Herb Graffis and Ralph Cannon articulated the reasoning offered by USGA officials behind their decision to cancel its national championships:

Their opinion was that many of the better players in the men's events would be in the armed service, consequently victory in these competitions would be devoid of actual championship significance.45

Arguably, by canceling the US Open, the USGA created a self-fulfilling prophecy: with no US Open title at stake, many of the top players appeared to find George May's $15,000 purse a stronger incentive to enter than the Hale America's $6,000, "patriotic considerations" notwithstanding, and voted with their feet. That doesn't happen with a US Open.


1. Bantam Ben - The Ben Hogan Story, 98 Sports Productions, 1970. Despite apparently being filmed at the 1966 Masters, the earliest air-date I can find is January 11, 1970.

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

3. Charles Price, The Hawk, Golf magazine, November 1975, pages 25-28, 79; Charles Price, Memories of Ben Hogan, Golf magazine, October 1981, pages 26, 30, 32 and 34.

4. Sam Blair, Hogan Takes Issue With Record Books, Says Last U.S. Open Title was His Fifth, The Wichita Eagle Beacon, June 24, 1982, page 13.

5. Rick Remsnyder, Recent books celebrate Hogan, The Journal News, June 16, 2002, page 39.

6. Herbert Warren Wind, The History of American Golf, Second Edition, 1956, page 427; Herbert Warren Wind, The History of American Golf, Third Edition, 1975, page 306.

7. ersatz (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved March 26, 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/ersatz

 8. Tim Scott, Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, 2013, pages 261-267.

9. Curt Sampson, Hogan, Updated Edition, 2001, pages 84 and 85. 

10. James Dodson, Ben Hogan, An American Life, 2004, page 164.

11. David Barrett, Miracle at Merion, 2010, pages 3 and 4.

12. Jacqueline Hogan Towery, Robert Towery, Peter Barbour, The Brothers Hogan, A Fort Worth History, 2014, page

13. Martin Davis, This Year's U.S. Open Spotlights Ben Hogan's Claim to a Fifth, The New York Times, September 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/sports/golf/us-open-ben-hogan.html

14. Golf Films, Hogan, 2019.

15. Martin Davis, This Year's U.S. Open Spotlights Ben Hogan's Claim to a Fifth, The New York Times, September 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/sports/golf/us-open-ben-hogan.html

16. Dan Jenkins, Pleading the Fifth, Golf Digest, June 1992, pages 146 and 148.

17. Ron Sirak, On 75th Anniversary: Recognize Hogan's Fifth U.S. Open, ronsirak.com, January 4, 2017. http://www.ronsirak.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/benhogananniversary.pdf

18. Special Dispatch to the Sun, Golf To Help Two Agencies, The  Baltimore Sun, April 15, 1942, page 18. 

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

20. Ralph Trost, ODDs Quoted in Cleveland Anything But the McCoy, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 6, 1940, page 17.

21. Associated Press, 30 Low Men Are To Be Exempt, The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 29, 1946, 1946, page 12.

22. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 33.

23. The Locker Room, Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1942, page 24: Thomson's three drives were 304, 282 and 287 yards, averaging 291; and, from 145 yards, he placed a ball 4 inches away.

24. The Locker Room, Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1942, page 18.

25. Tim Scott, Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, 2013, page 265.

26. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 7.

27. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 5.

28. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 12.

29. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 11.

30. United States Golf Association, Record Book of USGA Championships and International Events 1895 through 1961, page 26.

31. Dan Jenkins, Pleading the Fifth, Golf Digest, June 1992, pages 146 and 148; Rick Remsnyder, Recent books celebrate Hogan, The Journal News, June 16, 2002, page 39.

32. Hale America Golf Awarded to Ridgemoor, Chicago Tribune, January 28, 1942, page 22.

33. Fax correspondence from Frank Hannigan to Peter McCleery, Golf Digest, August 5, 1997.

34. Dan Jenkins, Pleading the Fifth, Golf Digest, June 1992, pages 146 and 148; Tim Scott, Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, 2013, page 262 and 263.

35. Golf Films, Hogan, 2019. Similarly, from Tim Scott, Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, 2013, page 267: "The Hale America National Open was listed by the USGA as a major championship in their program, but it's not a major championship?"

36. Dan Jenkins, Pleading the Fifth, Golf Digest, June 1992, pages 146 and 148.

37. Dan Jenkins, The Hogan I Knew, Golf Digest, October 1997, pages 128-132.

38. Jody Vasquez, Afternoons with Mr. Hogan, 2004, page 94.

39. Tim Scott, Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew, 2013, pages 266 and 267.

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

41. Tim Cronin, Reflections on Ridgemoor, 2005, page 65: "Other competitors contacted decades later by Geoff Russell of Golf World were split on the subject. In 1992, [runner up Mike] Turnesa said, 'It definitely was a U.S. Open. I know Ben thinks (it) should count as a U.S. Open, and I don't blame him. If I had won, I'd have felt like I won a U.S. Open. The only difference was the name.' Paul Runyan, a two-time PGA championship winner...told Russell, 'Don't get me wrong, Ridgemoor was nice and well-conditioned. But it was not, by any means, an Open Championship layout.'"

42. Gene Sarazen and Herbert Warren Wind, Thirty Years of Championship Golf, 1950, pages 248 and 249.

43. Associated Press, Won't admit he's got a chance, tho, The Nebraska State Journal, June 10, 1942, page 9.

44. Eddie Butler, Injured knee Takes Keiser Out Of Hale America Tourney, Akron Beacon Journal, June 6, 1942, page 13.

45. Herb Graffis and Ralph Cannon, The Esquire Sports Poll, Esquire magazine, July 1942, pages 84 and 85, 141-144.

 

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