Ben Hogan, just the name conjures up images of some of golf’s greatest legends: Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Just a little interesting trivia; all three of these great players were born in 1912. There will likely be a centennial celebration of this trio this year.
When we think of Ben Hogan, we think of Fort Worth, the Colonial Country Club and Shady Oaks Country Club, which was Hogan’s home club. He lived in Fort Worth for many years and that is where, in 1953, he started the Ben Hogan Company to manufacture golf clubs because he was dissatisfied with the clubs he had been using.
However, Dublin is Ben Hogan’s hometown. Ben was born in August 1912, the third child of Chester and Clara Hogan. Chester was a second generation blacksmith and worked at the family business with his father. Young Ben spent many hours at the blacksmith shop with his father and grandfather.
Ben, his brother Royal and sister Princess attended the Dublin School until 1921, when demand for the blacksmith trade started to diminish due to the increasing use of the automobile.
The Hogan family then moved to Fort Worth in search of a new way of life. However, the tragic death of Chester in February 1922 forced the young Hogan children to find new ways to help support the family. Ben and Royal sold newspapers at first; then Ben heard that he could make 65 cents a game caddying at the Glen Garden Country Club which was just a few miles from their house, just a good walking distance.
While at Glen Garden, Ben met and caddied for Marvin Leonard, owner and operator of the largest department store in North Texas and later, founder of Colonial Country Club. It was Leonard who encouraged Ben to pursue his growing love and interest in golf; and also supported Ben in three failed attempts to join the fledging PGA tour between 1930 and 1938.
Ben’s hard work and dedication to practice finally started to pay off in 1940 as he went on to win 14 championships before World War II interrupted his playing career. After the war he was practically unbeatable as the diminutive Texan won 36 tournaments between 1945-49.
On Feb. 2, 1949, returning from a tournament in California, Ben’s life was changed forever as the car he was driving was hit head on by a bus on a foggy road near Van Horn. His leap to shield his wife, Valerie, was the only thing that saved his life; however, doctors doubted that his crushed legs and pelvis would ever allow him to play golf again.
Ben’s miraculous comeback began after two months in an El Paso hospital and was culminated with a 1950 U.S. Open victory at Marion.
The year 1953 was Ben’s greatest year. He entered six officially sanctioned events, winning five of six, arguably the greatest single season performance by a golfer in the history of the game. Ben’s “Triple Crown” year, with wins at The Masters, U.S. Open and British Open Championship, has never been equaled.
Following this “Triple Crown” victory Ben was rewarded with a ticker tape parade in New York City. In an interview following the parade he commented on how humbling the experience was and that he would never have believed “a little fella from Dublin, Texas” would be honored in such a way.
Following his greatest year in golf history, Ben announced that he would be starting a golf club manufacturing company that would become the premier golf club manufacturer in the world.
Hogan is generally considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game. He is notable for his profound influence on the golf swing theory and his legendary ball striking ability.
Before his retirement from golf, Ben had won 64 PGA tournaments, fourth all-time behind Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Out of 292 career tournaments, Ben finished in the top three 139 times and in the top ten 241 times.
Several prominent country clubs have special rooms which pay tribute to Hogan including Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, the World of Golf in Florida, the USGA Museum in New Jersey and the club at Carnoustie, Scotland. However, the only stand-alone, open-to-the-public museum in the world which pays tribute exclusively to Ben Hogan is the museum in Dublin, Texas, his hometown.
Hogan played his last amateur tournament at the Dublin DeLeon golf course in 1929, just before turning pro at age 17. The course was abandoned near the start of WWII. The course fell into disrepair and was eventually sold, becoming a cow pasture.
When the Dublin Chamber of Commerce started working with the Ben Hogan Foundation of Fort Worth to get a Ben Hogan Museum in Dublin, they needed something for a fund raiser. They finally decided to have a “Cow Pasture Golf Classic” at the site of the old Dublin DeLeon golf course.
The first “Cow Pasture Golf Classic” was held in 2010. The course is rough and most golfers preferred to either walk or use ATVs instead of golf carts. A team of women golfers, sponsored by Dublin National Bank, competed on horseback in 2011.
The third annual “Cow Pasture Golf Classic,” held at the old Dublin DeLeon Golf Course, has been set for June 23. The cattle will be removed from this pasture a week before tournament time in order to give the hazards time to dry out.
If you would be interested in playing this golf classic on the same course that Ben Hogan played on as a teenager, contact Karen Wright, executive director of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce at 254-445-3422 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an entry form.
Better yet, visit the museum and pick up your entry form while you are there. When you get to Dublin, go to the light at the intersection of U.S. 67 and U.S. 6, take a left and go one block, the museum will be on your right.
“Come for the fun,” Wright said. “Come for the history. Come for the bragging rights.”
Note: Because of some health problems, this will be my last article. I have enjoyed working with Dale and the rest of the crew at the newspaper office over the past six or more years.
They are a great bunch of people.
Also, I have put many of my earlier articles together in book form. Two of the books are “History and Lore of Cleburne and Johnson County” and “Take a Stroll Through Texas History.” Both books are available at the Times-Review office for $15 each.
John Watson is a Cleburne resident who can be reached at email@example.com.