HOGAN, BEN (1912-1997)
William Benjamin "Bantam Ben" Hogan, America's premier golfer during the 1940s and 1950s, was born on August 13, 1912, in Dublin, Texas. At the age of nine his father committed suicide, forcing the family to move to Fort Worth. As a youngster Ben helped supplement the meager family income by selling newspapers and working as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club. Hogan began playing on his days off and quickly became a proficient golfer after switching from a left- to a right-handed swing.
He turned professional at the age of seventeen but struggled for the first decade of his golfing career due to a propensity for slicing the ball. Throughout his early golfing career he was forced to take odd jobs to support his wife, Valerie, whom he had married in 1937. By 1940, however, after countless hours at the driving range perfecting his swing, Hogan finished the year with five tournament wins and was the country's leading money winner. His professional career was put on hold between 1942 and 1945 due to military service in the Army Air Corps, but he returned to the professional tour in 1946 and won the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Championship.
Hogan's career and life nearly ended in 1949 when a bus hit his car head-on and it seemed that he would never walk again. Determined to prove his doctors wrong, Hogan recovered and returned to the tour in 1951, winning the U.S. Open and the Masters tournaments that year. Lingering injuries, however, limited Hogan to only seven tournaments a year. In 1953, arguably his finest year, Hogan won five of six tournaments, including his fourth U.S. Open title, his second Masters, and the British Open. Hogan continued to win tournaments until his retirement in 1960.
Hogan was known as a fierce competitor. With his signature white visor pulled low over his eyes, he intimidated opponents by blocking out everything around him as he drove toward the green. Hogan ended his career with sixty-three tournament wins (third all-time), including four U.S. Opens and two Masters titles. He was a four-time PGA player of the year and is a member of every golf Hall of Fame, including the PGA Hall of Fame.
After retiring Hogan focused on the golf equipment business that he had established in Fort Worth during the 1950s. Although he sold the company in 1960, he remained as the chairman and played an important role in golf club design for the next twenty years. Hogan died on July 25, 1997, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mark R. Ellis University of Nebraska at Kearney
Sampson, Curt. Hogan. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2001.