Lessons in Being A True Golfer From Ben Hogan

As we enter a new year, I thought it interesting to recollect on the zen of Ben Hogan. There are hundreds of stories that depict Ben Hogan as a man of many sides: harsh, determined, exact, closed, detailed, mysterious and even humorous — in the right circles.

Regardless of popular perception, there is arguably no other man in the history of the sport who understood his game and golf better. Except for a few films, interviews, and one of the most popular instructional books, Hogan left us little to study. This post is focused not so much on the tangibles he left, but more on what we can learn from the golfer and man that was Hogan and how we can apply it to our game and life.

Have clear motivation early on.

In a 1987 Golf Magazine Interview, Hogan was asked, “What was it that drove you so hard? His answers were clear and short:

“Three things. One, I didn’t want to be a burden to my mother. Two, I needed to put food on the table. Three, I needed a place to sleep.”

Hogan was $86 dollars away from giving up the game. Luckily for the golf world, he earned a couple hundred dollars that week and his career continued.

After he became settled and more comfortable financially, he didn’t allow for life’s luxuries to deter his focus.

GOLF Magazine: Once you and your family were eating well and sleeping comfortably, then what drove you?
HOGAN: Pride. Determination. I saw an opportunity. And when you see an opportunity, you practice and work, at least from sunup to sundown. Continue reading

The Comeback of Ben Hogan at Merion Golf Club

One of golf’s greatest feats is the comeback of Ben Hogan. After being struck by a Greyhound bus, doctors predicted Hogan would never walk again. His legs were crushed at impact and a main reason he survived was his selfless act to protect his wife by throwing himself on her lap right before impact.

Hogan was always someone who beat the odds: the odds of him making it to the Tour, of overcoming his father’s suicide, and battling back from his car crash.

That summer Monday in 1950 is stated best by the NY Times: Yesterday his challenge to the disbelievers was on the line.

What escapes the average golfer is that Hogan had a 1 stroke lead over Lloyd Mangrum and a three stroke lead over Tom Fazio; however on the sixteenth hole, Mangrum incurred a two stroke penalty which gave Hogan a three stroke lead on both competitors with two holes to play. Hogan dropped a two tier putt for a birdie two on the long par-3 seventeenth.

The New York Times article ends the story by referring to the nickname Ben had growing up:

Then the bug alighted on Mangrum’s ball at the sixteenth, and the penalty for handling the ball sealed the victory for Little Ben.

Below is a great interview with Hogan discussing not only his comeback, but also his mental approach. A great gem: