Monday, October 6, 2008

Golf Legends - Ben Hogan

To understand why Ben Hogan is attributed with the greatest swing and considered the finest the game has seen, all you need to know is that it is believed he “invented” practice. Not only did he play a near flawless game, he spent many hours early in the morning just working on his game. Apart from that, his meticulous planning and concentration made him stand apart from the rest of the players in his generation. Ben Hogan started his career as a caddy at Forth Worth where another famous golfer of that time, Byron Nelson was also a caddy. He won as many as 63 professional titles in a period of over 20 years but unlike his compatriot Sam Snead he could not extend his career for much longer.

Even during the period he dominated the game, it was an interrupted career. Firstly he was sent on war duty during the second world war and then later in 1949 he was involved in a life threatening car accident. The car in which he was traveling, had a head-on collision with a Greyhound Bus. Many doctors feared he would never be able to walk again. ‘Walk again’ he did but not just did he walk again, he went on to win his second U.S. Open the very next year. Who can forget that moment, captured in a frame by famous photographer Hy Peskin with Ben Hogan hitting a one iron from the tee and as he holds his pose the 16,000 strong crowd, lining the fairway on either side right up to the green wait with bated breath to see the outcome of that shot. Despite the fact that Sam Snead won 11 tournaments in that year, it was Ben Hogan who was awarded the player of the year title. It was in recognition of his remarkable courage, grit and determination.

Ben Hogan largely kept to himself and was an introvert by nature. This led to him being misunderstood and characterized as cold and aloof on the golf course. But that was not the case. It was a testament to his incredible concentration and focus; he completely blocked the world out while playing, fuelled by the desire to win. Jimmy Demaret a pro and one of the players who used to practice with Ben Hogan once said he couldn’t understand why people think Hogan keeps to himself. "When I play with him, he talks to me on every green, he turns to me and says, 'You're away.' "

Perhaps the stat that best portrays his consistency is that he finished in the Top Three on the leaderboard in nearly 50 percent of the 292 tournaments he entered on the PGA Tour. The reason behind that is as he says-:

“The secret is always the next shot”

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