By Clair Goodwin
I have to admit that I am a fan of Ben Hogan.
Not just a fan, but a devotee.
I’ve read articles written by him and about him. I met him 50 years or so ago and interviewed him. Despite the warnings I had been given about Hogan being snappish with reporters and difficult to talk with, I found him to be friendly, articulate and generous with his time.
So against that backdrop, you should have no difficulty understanding where I’m coming from when I say that history has given “The Wee Iceman” or “Bantam Ben” a bad deal.
By my count, he should have been credited with winning five U.S. Open championships, not the widely accepted four.
How can that be, you ask?
Well, it seems that the outbreak of World War II disrupted the USGA’s schedule for the 1942 U.S. Open. Golf’s ruling body for amateur golfers in the United States decided to forgo the Open that year and, instead, joined with the PGA and the Chicago Golf Association in co-sponsoring the “Hale America” tournament as a fund-raiser for the Navy Relief Fund.
That “Hale America” had the makings of a U.S. Open and should have played as such. Consider that qualifying for the “Hale America” event was similar to that for the Open. The field was strong. Bobby Jones came out of retirement to play. Byron Nelson was there. So, too, were Jimmy Demaret and essentially all of the top pros of that era. The lone exception was Sam Snead, who was already in the Navy.
The site was Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago. While perhaps not up to USGA standards in length and degree of difficulty, the club reportedly allowed its rough to grow extra high and ordered its greens cut extra short for the event. The prize fund was typical for the time, $6,000. The USGA even awarded, I understand, a gold medal to the winner that was similar to those given to U.S. Open winners.
Hogan’s 271 total was three strokes clear of Mike Turnesa and Demaret. That score was lower than the norm. But Hogan would shoot 276 in winning the 1948 Open at Riveria Country Club, a revered course that remains a regular on the PGA Tour today. You would think that if the Chicago layout was considered soft then there might have been more than a five-shot spread between Ben and second place.
I know that I am partial. But everything about the 1942 event suggested U.S. Open. Call it revisionist history, if you will, but the powers-that-be ought to reopen and re-examine that tournament and give Hogan his fifth Open title.
It was, as far as I am concerned, the last U.S. Open before the end of the war.
The 23rd annual Mark Miller Memorial Golf Tournament, benefiting the Southwest Baptist University golf team, is scheduled Aug. 3 and 4 at Silo Ridge Golf and Country Club in Bolivar. Entry fee is $140 per player.
Registration forms should be filled out and returned with a check payable to SBU Golf to Silo Ridge CC, P.O. Box 432, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. Contact 417-326-7456 ext. 21 with questions.
Swinging for Pink
Indigo Sky Casino will present the “Swinging for Pink” scramble, benefiting the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, on Friday, Sept. 6, at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club.
A social hour, dinner, silent auction and live auction are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. A live band will play from 9 p.m. until midnight.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three places in Championship, A and B flights as well as for the longest men’s and women’s drives and a putting contest. A $20,000 hole in one contest also is featured.
Entry fee is $300 per team and $75 per player. Checks should be made payable to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks and mailed to Indigo Sky Casino, c/o Regina Hammons, 70220 U.S. 60, Wyandotte, Okla., 74370.