William Ben Hogan (b. August 13, 1912 in Texas; † July 25, 1997 in Fort Worth, Texas) was a role model as a golfer for many subsequent professionals in the sport. His swing is still considered the perfect sequence of movements today.
Since Ben Hogan, golf professionals spend a lot of time on the driving range to improve their swing. The Ben Hogan quote, "Every day not spent practicing on the driving range means one more day on the road to becoming a great golfer," shows his ambitious approach to training.
His drive for perfection earned Ben Hogan 64 Tour victories, including nine major titles. In 1953, at the height of his career, he became the first professional golfer to achieve three major victories (Masters, US Open, The Open Championship) in one year.
Hogan was born in Stephenville, Texas, the third and youngest child of Chester and Clara Hogan. His father was a blacksmith and the family lived 10 miles southwest in Dublin until moving to Fort Worth in 1921. When Hogan was nine years old in 1922, his father Chester committed suicide.
The family subsequently experienced financial difficulties, and the children took jobs to help their mother, who worked as a seamstress, make ends meet. Older brother Royal left school at age 14 to deliver office supplies by bicycle, and nine-year-old Ben sold newspapers at the nearby train station after school.
A tip from a friend led him to caddie at Glen Garden Country Club, a nine-hole golf course 11 km to the south, at age 11. One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson, later a Tour rival.
Hogan left Central High School in the last semester of his senior year. Six months before his 18th birthday, he turned professional in golf at the Texas Open in San Antonio in late January 1930. Hogan's early years as a professional were very difficult; he went broke more than once.
He did not win his first tournament (as an individual) until March 1940, when he won three consecutive events in North Carolina at the age of 27. Although it took a decade for Hogan to get his first win, his wife Valerie believed in him, and this helped him get through the tough years when he was fighting a hook that he later came to grips with.
Although Hogan finished 13th on the money list in 1938, he took a job as an assistant pro at Century Country Club in Purchase, New York. He worked at Century as an assistant and then as head pro until 1941, when he took the job as head pro at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
In 1949, he suffered an automobile accident in which he was seriously injured. Although all the doctors said he would probably never walk again, a year later, with the greatest diligence and iron discipline, he managed to stand on the first tee again in Los Angeles, where thousands of spectators celebrated him frenetically. On the 5th day of the competition, he lost to Jack Fleck in a playoff with 69 to 73 strokes, which was probably due to his emaciated body.
He returned to the PGA Tour to begin the 1950 season at the Los Angeles Open, where he tied with Sam Snead through 72 holes but lost the 18-hole playoff.
A win at Carnoustie was only part of Hogan's turning point of the 1953 season, a year in which he won five of the six tournaments he entered, including three major championships (a feat known as the Triple Crown of Golf).
Hogan was known to practice more than any of his contemporary golfers. On this subject, Hogan himself said, "You hear stories about me busting my head practicing, but ... I had fun. I couldn't wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. Hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisp, that's a joy very few people experience."
He was also one of the first players to use certain clubs on yards or reference points on the course, such as bunkers or trees, to improve his distance control.
It is also known that he spent years thinking about the golf swing and tried a number of theories and methods before arriving at the finished method that gave him his greatest period of success.
Hogan's late swing produced the famous "Hogan Fade" ball flight, lower than usual for a great player and left to right. This ball flight was the result of his use of a "draw" stroke in conjunction with a "weak" grip, a combination that all but eliminated the chance of hitting a hook.
Hogan played and practiced golf only with his bare hands, that is, without wearing gloves. Moe Norman did the same, also playing and practicing without gloves. The two were arguably the greatest ball-strikers golf has ever seen. Even Tiger Woods cited them as the only players who ever "owned their swing" because they had total control over it and, as a result, the flight of the ball.
In the spring of 1953, Hogan announced that he had discovered a "secret" that made his swing almost automatic. There are many theories about its exact nature. The earliest theory is that the "secret" was a special wrist movement. However, many believed that Hogan did not reveal everything he knew at the time.
Since then, it has been claimed in Golf Digest magazine and by Jody Vasquez in his book, Afternoons With Mr. Hogan, that the second element of Hogan's "secret" was the way he used his right knee to initiate the swing, and that right knee motion was critical to proper wrist function.
Hogan revealed later in life that the "secret" was to wrap the left wrist around the top of the backswing and use a weaker grip with the left hand (thumb more on top of the grip than on the right).
In 1965, a panel of American golf journalists declared Ben Hogan the greatest golfer of all time.
In 1954, Ben Hogan founded a company that manufactures high-quality golf clubs.
In 1974, he was among the first golfers inducted into the newly created World Golf Hall of Fame.
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