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Hole 3: Ben Hogan: “I had a dream” 

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He was much misunderstood, and I certainly do not intend to contribute to more of that. My first few encounters with Mr. Hogan were tough. And if you only consider one dimension of Ben Hogan, you might call him crusty. I assure you, however, that he had many dimensions that would come out in time. He was guarded, but he did later show his passion and softer side. I just needed to earn my stripes.

Stick with me and I promise in a few holes I will give you a few glimpses of a warmer and fuzzier Ben Hogan. If you can’t wait, my buddy Tim Scott has a number of those in his recent book, which is a great read. As for me and my stories, I need to take you down this path as it happened to me.

Anyone who could get just a little bit close to Ben Hogan would soon learn he loved dearly a number of causes. I am only going to report what I saw him do or what I heard him say in my presence. With that backdrop, I can tell you that I experienced several examples of his enormous passion and love on the following subjects: his country, the U.S. military, the game of golf and those who play it at all levels, his family, his company, his products, his employees, Texas, and even stray dogs. Those are the things that for me caused his first impression as a crusty, demanding man to chip and melt away.

There is no doubt, however, that Mr. Hogan was a fiery competitor. He drove himself hard to be his best and demanded no less from those around him. I doubt anyone he led ever worked harder or faced bigger obstacles than he did. If you have ever played for a tough coach or experienced the pressure of a military drill instructor, you know that it is not always pleasant. You also know that from the pressure you became a better player, a better teammate or a better solider because you were challenged and driven hard. That was Mr. Hogan. He didn’t coddle his employees, but he did instill team loyalty and an extreme sense of accomplishment.

Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about something I saw him do in 1988 — or maybe it was 1989 — that offers insight into how his mind worked. You’ve probably heard his quote about golf: “The best part of the game is improving.” He talked of that many times.

Anyways, here’s the story.

Mr. Hogan always made a point to be with his troops at the yearly Ben Hogan Company sales meetings. Company salesmen and management folks from across the country and the world would gather each year to celebrate successes and map out the plans and products for the next year. The year of this story, we had the most successful and hottest product in the industry: our “Edge” irons. On the night of our formal awards dinner, Mr. Hogan was to speak. Guys and gals were pontificating all day as to what would be his subject, and we knew that he was very creative over the years in how he would address the group. 

When the doors to the banquet hall opened for dinner, roughly 40 full-grown golf geeks in suits jockeyed for the seats near the main table to get as close as they could to Mr. Hogan. I was pretty aggressive and wiry quick in those days, so I’m proud to say I got one of the prime seats. I would be near enough to catch it all.

Mr. Hogan came in the room and was seated at the head table with Jerry Austry (our president) and the mucky muck VPs. Mr. Hogan had a reputation of not being much for chit-chat, but he seemed to be having a good time discussing whatever the head table subjects were during dinner. After chow and a number of presentations for sales awards, Jerry got up to introduce our very rare speaker. Doug McGrath (one of the VPs) went over to shut down the drink waiters and bartender; he did not want anything to distract from Mr. Hogan’s address.

After Jerry’s introduction, Ben Hogan rose and stepped to the podium. He was in his late 70s at the time. Mr. Hogan gripped his left and right hands on the podium furniture, and slowly turned his head left and right and scanned the room. He had no notes with him. The silence he invoked was loud. Ben Hogan was a true master of the pause and could use silence like no one I’ve ever encountered since. All eyes that night watched and waited. If Elvis had crawled out of his grave at Graceland and entered the room’s side door, I doubt if anyone would have cared. We were Ben Hogan’s team and our leader was about to speak. 

The silence was finally broken when Mr. Hogan leaned into the microphone, and I’ve transcribed what he said to the best of my memory. 

[quote_box_center]

Men, (pause). A few nights ago I had a dream. It was Masters Sunday. All the greats were there and I was in the last group. I stepped to the first tee and hit the greatest drive of my life. The ball flew like a rocket. I hit my second shot near the pin and tapped in for my birdie. I was happy.

I stepped to the second hole and hit my drive. It set up perfectly for my approach shot. My third was at the flag and trickled near, and I tapped in for another birdie. After two holes I was 2-under. I went to the third tee. Same thing there, birdie. Now I’m 3-under for the day.”   

[/quote_box_center]

Mr. Hogan continued shot by shot, describing 14 more dream holes at Augusta National, each of which resulted in a birdie. He had many times during his career said that there should be no reason a golfer could not make a birdie or better on every hole. It seems his dream was a round just like that. It took a good while for Mr. Hogan to describe all these holes, but the room was mesmerized and locked into his story.

[quote_box_center]“Then in my dream, I found myself looking up the hill standing on the tee at 18. I was 17 strokes under par for my final round. It was the best dream of my life. I hit my drive up the hill on 18 with the same rocket trajectory as the first hole. My second hit the green and tracked towards the pin. After it came to rest, I had a makeable putt for my birdie. I then rolled that putt at the hole. It was tracking perfectly. At the last moment, the ball lipped out around the cup and left 6 inches for par and a final-round score of 55.”[/quote_box_center]

Everyone in the room started to laugh uncontrollably… everyone but Mr. Hogan, that is.  He kept a stern face and squeezed both sides of the podium as if he wanted to break it.   After he let us hoo and haw for a few seconds, Mr. Hogan raised both arms high in the air. The room went silent. He had complete command again and gruffly said:

[quote_box_center]You guys might think that lip out was funny, but I didn’t!”[/quote_box_center]

There was a long pause.

[quote_box_center]”My best dream ever had become a nightmare! I was so damn mad it woke me up and I haven’t slept since.”[/quote_box_center]

I didn’t think it possible, but Mr. Hogan found a way to scowl at us even more. We didn’t know how to react. Was he serious? For a moment, I wondered if the nightmare had been real and it and sleep deprivation had melted his mind. But at the apex of this newly imposed silence, Mr. Hogan’s icy stare slowly morphed into a sly grin, and then a real smile. A few seconds later, he topped off the smile with a millisecond “I gotcha” wink.

He stepped away from his pulpit and sat down, and everyone in the room leaped to their feet. We were ape like berserk with cheers, applause and gut-wrenching laughter.

It was a priceless moment of Ben Hogan being Ben Hogan.

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Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years working in the golf industry. In that time, he has been awarded more than 200 golf-related patents, and has designed and engineered more than 300 golf products that have been sold worldwide. As part of his job, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of touring professionals and developed clubs that have been used to win all four of golf's major championships (several times), as well as 200+ PGA Tour events. Stites got his golf industry start at the Ben Hogan Company in 1986, where Ben Hogan and his personal master club builder Gene Sheeley trained the young engineer in club design. Tom went on to start his own golf club equipment engineering company in 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, which he sold to Nike Inc. in 2000. The facility grew and became known as "The Oven," and Stites led the design and engineering teams there for 12 years as the Director of Product Development. Stites, 59, is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. He is now semi-retired, but continues his work as an innovation, business, engineering and design consultant. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ben Hogan Foundation, a 501C foundation that works to preserve the legacy and memory of the late, great Ben Hogan.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Ray Moore

    Aug 5, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Excellent Data. Is the waiter that served Mr. Hogan still alive I think his name was Charles at Shady Oaks CC. I heard a story that Mr. Hogans wife was sending Mr. Hogan in town to be fitted for a new suit or two which he did not like to do and he told the waiter if I’m going you are going also would you be able to verify. Thank you

  2. Sara "Gene" Crawford

    Aug 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    These were great men. Thank you Tom, for showing the world just pieces of my “paw paw” !!

  3. Pingback: Ben Hogan “I had a dream” | Bringing you all the news from around the world

  4. M.

    Jul 12, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    How far the game has come from it’s gentlemen like beginnings to the half wit trolling offspring of today… go find another sport to heckle douche bags!

  5. Christosterone

    Jul 12, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Tom,
    I LOVE golf history….in fact, my wife is always telling me to delete all the 60s and 70s “Open Championship” episodes from the DVR.
    Your articles are quickly climbing the ladder in my rankings…
    And though I am not a Hogan fan, his place in history is unarguable and your articles invaluable..
    Please keep em’ coming….
    Thanks
    -Christosterone

  6. BD57

    Jul 11, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Tom,

    Keep telling the stories, knowing the folks who know their history and respect the game appreciate it.

  7. Big Tony

    Jul 10, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Thankfully Ben Hogan did not have a Twitter account. The canyon-esq divide between his pretty golf swing and basic social decency is so sad it could make tennis fans out of all of us. Where are you Sam Sneed?

  8. Josh

    Jul 10, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Some of you are just pitiful. The guy is sharing an inside glimpse of one of the most noted golfers of all time and all you can do is come back with snarky comments about everything.

    If you hate Hogan so much why are you even reading the articles?

    Tom, great stories keep them coming.

  9. Slimeone

    Jul 10, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Sounds like Hogan was the life of the party.

  10. Jake Anderson

    Jul 10, 2015 at 4:52 am

    seems like this hogan person was very unlikable. and he wasn’t even a very good golfer, so why bother?

    • Me Nunya

      Jul 11, 2015 at 12:37 am

      I wish they would just moderate the obvious trolls.

  11. Nolanski

    Jul 9, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Love it! Keep em coming.

  12. Chuck

    Jul 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Well, if he made a three (drive-“approach”- one putt) on the second hole at Augusta on “Masters Sunday,” that would have been an eagle. Not that I would have been counting, listening to Ben Hogan. Maybe it was a Masters Sunday where Ben, in his seventies, was playing at Shady Oaks and not Augusta.

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Jul 9, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Chuck, the story has been corrected. He was describing his third shot on No. 2.

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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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