Ben was hospitalized for months. More bones in his body were broken than left intact. He was told he would never walk again...He had been so cut up that he could only use his legs by starting all over again and retraining his brain as well as his nerves and muscles of his arms, legs and hands.1
There have been some great comebacks in golf. Most notable, perhaps, was Ben Hogan, who won the U.S. Open in 1950 after lying near death in a hospital bed for six months after an automobile accident.2
This is Part 1 of a four-part series. The other three parts are here: Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Many view Ben Hogan's dramatic comeback from the horrific auto-bus accident of February 2, 1949 as the greatest in golf history, if not in all sports. As popularly retold, doctors at first feared for Hogan's life and, if he did survive, feared he might never walk again. Completely ruled out by his doctors was a return to golf of any kind, let alone tournament golf. But the...
Both Bob Drum and Arnold Palmer have recounted how the two of them conceived of golf's "modern grand slam" on a trans-Atlantic flight shortly after Palmer had won the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills. In 2016, Katherine Bissell repeated the story told to her by Drum:
While Palmer is known for many things, he is least known for the one thing that is most important historically. On a flight across the Atlantic in 1960, he invented the modern grand slam of golf.
It happened when Palmer was on his way to the British Open, after having won the Masters and the U.S. Open that year. One person aboard the plane was the late Bob Drum, then a sportswriter for a newspaper in Pittsburgh. As Drum told the story to me, Palmer asked Drum what it would be if he, Palmer, won the British Open and the PGA in addition to the Masters and the U.S. Open. Drum said he replied that it would be the equal of Bobby Jones’ grand slam. According to Drum, Palmer said, “That’s what...
For the golfer who has likely been studied more closely than any other, surprisingly little information is available about the specs of Ben Hogan's clubs. The USGA has several drivers and two iron sets in its collection, but hasn't published anything that I'm aware of. As far as I know, all that is readily available is from the book Afternoons With Mr. Hogan; in it, Jody Vasquez published what he claims were the specs of Hogan's clubs in the mid-1960s during the period Vasquez was working in the bag room at Shady Oaks:1
Jody includes some insights from Hogan's personal club maker, Gene Sheeley, and adds some details, including the bounce on the sole of the irons, which ranged from negative with the long irons to none at all with the shorter clubs; the reminder under the standard size cord grip set at 5 o'clock; and an odd claim that the heel of the irons were ground in a way that caused them to sit five degrees open at address.2 But Vasquez also admitted that...
Last week, Brandel Chamblee created a stir with critical comments about golf instruction that appeared in a two-part interview by Golfweek's Adam Schupak on March 24 and 26.1 In response, instructor David Leadbetter penned a scathing "open letter" to Brandel that was published in Golf Digest on March 27.2 That same day, Golfweek's Eamon Lynch chimed in on Twitter with the following Tweet, and David fired right back:
For those unfamiliar with the Lydia Ko-David Leadbetter saga, here is a recap:
By the fall of 2013, 16 year old Lydia Ko was a rapidly rising star in women's golf. In October, she announced her intention to turn professional. At that time she had accomplished the following: youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event, the youngest person ever to win an LPGA event, and, in August 2013, the only amateur to win two LPGA Tour events. In all, Lydia had won five professional events while an amateur and, at the end of 2013,...
On Friday, January 10, TalkinGolf History Podcast 26 was published, "The Myths of Ben Hogan." Thinking About Golf founder Jeff Martin was interviewed by host Connor Lewis and discussed several of the significant myths that have shaped what "we know" about the legend, but are not fully accurate. Topics include:
1. Did Hogan spend ten years "on tour" before winning his first individual event?
2. Did Hogan have a "secret"?
3. Does the 1942 Hale America count as Ben Hogan's fifth US Open?
4. Did Hogan's doctors tell him that he "might never walk again and would surely never play golf again"?
5. Did Hogan hate putting?
And more! Link is directly below:
The Myths of Ben Hogan
On July 15, 2015, the University of St. Andrews announced a significant discovery found in a cache of papers donated by a local family that had not been examined for 40 years: a unique photograph of Scotland’s greatest ever golfer, Young Tom Morris, in action on the St. Andrews links:
Although in the university's possession were studio poses of Young Tom (also known as Tommy), no photographs of him actually playing the game were known to exist. The university's photographic archivist, Trevor Ledger, explained the significance of the discovery:
If it’s what we think it is and we’re 95 per cent certain that it is what we think it is, then it is very precious.
Just on it it’s got T. Morris with a question-mark and I looked at it and I thought "I’m sure that’s Tommy Morris," but then I was instantly sceptical because I’ve never seen a photo of him actually playing the game.
However the more I’ve looked at it, it’s from his...
Some of you know Mark Baron, one of the premier Hogan collectors and the operator of the renowned "Ben Hogan" Facebook group:
Mark's FB group is essential daily viewing for those who can't get enough about the great man: each day Mark posts an article by or about Hogan, or acknowledges an important event in Hogan's life. Of course, he was featured in this past summer's two-part documentary Hogan, produced by Golf Films and aired on the Golf Channel.
Last week, Mark shared with me an article from the March 1943 issue of Esquire that he had recently acquired and it absolutely floored me: a four page instruction article, complete with three full swing sequences, photographed from different angles.1 I had never seen the article or any pictures from the sequences, or even heard it referenced anywhere. I'm still in a bit of shock by the discovery.
The timing of the publication may have something to do with its obscurity. Because of World War II, the...
One of the more interesting Hogan biographies is The Brothers Hogan: A Fort Worth History, co-authored by Ben's niece, Jacque Towery, older brother Royal's daughter. Ben and Royal were very close, and it's fun to see Hogan's career through the eyes of a doting niece. Ben and Valerie never had children, so I sense there was a closer bond than usual between Royal's two daughters and their uncle Ben.
Although one might expect a biography co-authored by a family member to be free of factual inaccuracies, The Brothers Hogan repeats many of the myths found in others, which makes me think that much of the book was written relying on those works, with Jacque's memories interspersed where appropriate.
One mistake I stumbled upon very recently was a bit of a shock, however, because it involved a picture that is identified as part of the "family collection." On page 99, the following illustration appears. It shows Hogan "clowning around" during a clinic (something he was, in...
I put this together for myself because I wanted to watch the greatest swing of all time in a continuous loop: can't get enough of that hip shimmy before Sam starts his takeaway. Enjoy, and be sure to crank up the volume for Echo & The Bunnymen...
How much does driving distance help the golfer? The obvious, and correct, answer is "a lot", although you'll still find those willing to vigorously dispute it. Perhaps that's because instructors broadly have done a dismal job teaching distance, so they both downplay its importance and claim that it's a "god-given" talent. Much more on the latter will be covered elsewhere.
But, the correlation between driving distance and lower scores is indisputable. Here is an illuminating chart prepared by Trackman, that shows a very strong statistical correlation between club head speed and handicap:
At the professional level, Mark Broadie in his book Every Shot Counts uses his strokes gained methodology to derive an estimated value for an additional 20 yards of driving distance. He is quick to note that his estimate demands a judgment on how much accuracy will be lost as a result of the distance gain, so his is a "guess", not a statistically derived truth. However, before we delve into the...