Golf legend Ben Hogan was born in Stephenville, Texas. He was the youngest child of Chester and Clara Hogan. His father was a blacksmith and the family lived ten miles southwest in Dublin until 1921 when they moved 70 miles to Fort Worth. Visit My Squidoo Lens!
The family incurred financial difficulty after Ben Hogan’s father died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest at the family home In 1922.The children took jobs to help their seamstress mother make ends meet. Older brother Royal quit school at age fourteen to deliver office supplies by bicycle, and nine year-old Ben sold newspapers after school at the nearby train station.
He began caddying at the age of eleven at Glen Garden Country Club. One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson, later a tour rival. The two would tie for the lead at the annual Christmas caddy tournament in December 1927, when both were fifteen. Nelson sunk a thirty foot putt to tie on the ninth and final hole. Instead of sudden death, they played another nine holes; Nelson sunk another substantial putt on the final green to win by a stroke.
Nelson was granted the only junior membership offered by the members of Glen Garden the following spring. Club rules did not allow caddies age 16 and older, so after August 1928, Hogan took his game to three daily-fee courses: Katy Lake, Worth Hills, and Z-Boaz.
Hogan dropped out of High School during his senior year. Just shy of his eighteenth birthday he became a professional golfer at the Texas Open in San Antonio in late January 1930. Visit My Squidoo Lens!
Hogan met his future wife,Valerie Fox, in Sunday school in Fort Worth in the mid-1920s. They met again in 1932 when he landed a low-paying club pro job in Cleburne where her family had moved. They married in April 1935 at her parent’s home.
His early years as a pro were very difficult and he went broke more than once. Hogan’s wife Valerie believed in him. This helped see him through the tough years. He did not win his first pro tournament until March 1940 when he won three consecutive tournaments in North Carolina. Although it took a decade to secure his first victory.
By most accounts, Ben Hogan was the best golfer of his era. Still stands as one of the greatest of all time. “The Hawk” possessed fierce determination, an iron will, and unquestionable golf skills. This formed an aura which could intimidate opponents into competitive submission. In Scotland, Hogan was known as “The Wee Ice Man”, or, in some versions, “Wee Ice Mon,” a moniker earned during his famous British Open victory at Carnoustie in 1953. It is a reference to his steely and seemingly nerveless demeanor, itself a product of a golf swing he had built that was designed to perform better the more pressure he put it under.
Hogan was highly respected by fellow competitors for his superb management skills. During his peak years, he rarely if ever attempted a shot in competition which he had not thoroughly honed in practice.
Hogan won 63 professional golf tournaments between the years of 1938 through 1959, despite his career’s being interrupted in its prime by World War II and a near-fatal car accident. Hogan and his wife survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-shrouded bridge east of Van Horn, Texas on February 2, 1949. Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her, and would have been killed had he not done so, as the steering column punctured the driver’s seat. His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. He left the hospital on April 1, 59 days after the accident.
The “Hogan Slam” was the 1953 season in which he won five of the six tournaments he entered and the first three major championships of the year. It still stands among the greatest single seasons in the history of professional golf. It was the only time a golfer won three major championships in a year until Tiger Woods matched the feat in 2000.
His nine career professional major championships tie him with Gary Player for fourth all-time, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (14) and Walter Hagen (11).