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Opinion & Analysis

Ben Hogan: The myths, the man

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In the world of books devoted to the great Ben Hogan, a few stand above the rest. James Dodson’s Ben Hogan: An American Life, Curt Sampson’s Hogan, Jody Vasquez’s Afternoons with Mr. Hogan, and Kris Tschetter’s Mr. Hogan: The Man I Knew all fit together to form the most complete portrait of the often misunderstood and mischaracterized golfing legend.

Tim Scott has added an entry to the canon of Hogan texts with Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew.

Scott worked worked at the Ben Hogan Company from 1969 to 1982, the last eight years as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing. He had the opportunity to know and work with Ben Hogan personally. More importantly for the purposes of his book, however, he had access to Mr. Hogan’s network of close friends, employees of the golf equipment company, and members at Ben Hogan’s home course in his later years, Shady Oaks.

He has organized a compendium of brilliant Hogan anecdotes in his new book, many of which even the most dedicated of Hogan of aficionados will be hearing for the first time.

I spoke with Mr. Scott by phone about meeting and working for Ben Hogan, what inspired a former executive to put pen to paper, and what the process of collecting some of the most revealing Hogan episodes ever contained in a text was like.

B.A.: What was the first time you met Ben Hogan like?

T.S.: The first time I met him, I had just gone to work for AMF. I was on a year training program up in Connecticut in the sports products group. The Hogan company was part of that. I came to Ft. Worth…was taken into Mr. Hogan’s office and introduced…I was very intimidated. Of course, I knew who Mr. Hogan was. I didn’t know much about his image at that time, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions. Certainly, at that time, he was the greatest golfer ever.

He had a good sense of humor. I was a junior member at Shady Oaks [where Hogan played]. I was playing golf over there one Saturday…Hogan walked up and asked if he could join us.

In 1969, Hogan had surgery on his shoulder, so he wasn’t playing in the company golf tournament. He was driving around, saying hello to everybody and watching us play. I was about to tee off. There about six feet away from my ball was the wheel of a cart…in it was Mr. Hogan. I was 25 years old at the time. I had played basketball, so I was in pretty good condition. If I hadn’t been 25 and in real good physical condition, I’d have thought I was having a heart attack. I actually don’t know how I swung the golf club. I was normally a slicer…I hit a duck hook.

I was never comfortable enough to ask him to play golf, but he asked me to play about a half-a-dozen times. That broke down some of the walls I’d kind of self imposed because of his stature.

At this point, after the AMF sale, was he coming into the office every day?

He sold his company to AMF in 1960. I joined the company in 1969. He came into the office every day. He had to be told when it was a holiday. He came in every day and he stayed until about 12 or 1 o’clock. He would go to Shady Oaks in the afternoon and hit balls.

He’d eat lunch before he hit balls…he’d play cards…talk with his friends. When he was hitting balls, he was usually trying something new or different or testing something. He wasn’t just out there hitting for fun…he had a purpose.

Hogan Tim SwingingHoganFrown

Ben Hogan watches Tim Scott swing.

What was his office like?

He had a big office. He had two or three chairs in his office for people. Usually, when he wanted to talk, he invited us to his office to talk. He had a good size desk. He had a picture…he and Clifford Roberts, President Eisenhower…and I don’t know if the fourth was Byron Nelson, but they were sitting on a bench at Augusta.

What was the genesis of wanting to set the record straight, if you will, regarding Mr. Hogan and how did that lead into the book?

Over time, as I got to know him better, and played golf at Shady Oaks and talked with people who knew him there, what I was hearing didn’t mesh with what I was seeing personally and what these other people were communicating to me.

I suggested that he write an autobiography, and that people would really enjoy it…and maybe feel differently toward him. He wasn’t interested.

Did you find him to be very formal?

We had a number of casual conversations. At the sales meetings, he’d stand around talking to people. People would ask, like, what are your favorite golf courses and he’d be happy to talk about that.

One thing he was very guarded about…was that his father committed suicide. From what I understand, he was in the room when his father shot himself.

He and Gary Player had a conversation, I think it was at Westchester…Player said they were standing on the 18th tee. Hogan said, and this was toward the end of his career, “I wouldn’t want to be a professional coming in today because there’s no privacy.”

And if you quoted him, he wanted it quoted exactly right. There were a number of instances where they [reporters] took things and kind of twisted them a little bit…so he just said, “The hell with them.”

So you don’t think he’d be comfortable with the climate of professional golf today?

The media is very intrusive into the private lives of golfers now. They have no problem…asking you questions that…you really don’t want to deal with.

Just recently, you had these NCAA coaches trying to get ready for a tournament and there getting asked questions about this Indiana law. That’s not something that Hogan would want to participate in. It’s not that he didn’t have an opinion…but I guess that he felt that his opinion was his opinion and everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

Indeed. I can’t imagine him maintaining a Twitter presence or being stalked by the paparazzi comfortably…

(Laughing) No. That just doesn’t seem to mesh.

You talked a little about the origin of the book. So from there, that kind of compelled you to reach out to those who knew Mr. Hogan?

I’d finally heard enough of that stuff…eight or 10 years after I left the company. It made me mad. I thought, “This isn’t right.”

I once said to him, “I think it’d be great if you wrote your autobiography.” He said, “It’s too much work. I couldn’t do that.”

So he never did.

The thought crossed my mind, “If I don’t, who will?” I was in kind of a unique position: Being a member at Shady Oaks, being the Sales & Marketing Vice President, and my father died when I was six years old. And I didn’t know about his father, but he knew about mine. I don’t know whether he made compensation for me in that regard or what.

But he treated me very nicely.

And I was no writer, but between my two years at Amos Tuck Business School at Dartmouth, one of the marketing professors asked me to work for him that summer to write business cases for a textbook.

And I was in the marketing area so I did some writing. I thought, “What the heck? I write down my personal experiences with him and what I saw myself, and then talk to some people at the Hogan Company…”

I talked to some people at Shady Oaks that I knew. And then they would suggest, “You need to talk to so-and-so.”

So I talked to people he played golf with…Shelly Mayfield over at Brook Hollow, and Eldridge Miles, who I think at the time was at the Dallas Country Club.

Talking to all them, the same things kept coming from them that I was thinking. I thought, I got something here. This is a totally different side of Ben that, in his privacy, he chose not to make public.

For example, a lot of them saw his generosity that he did through other people on the condition that they never tell who it was that gave them the money or the gifts or whatever.

Ben-Hogan-FRONT

Very interesting. Tell me a little more about the book.

Well, it’s not a typical biography. There’s 47 pages of biography at the front for people who don’t know anything about Ben Hogan. The rest of it is anecdotes, true-life experiences of these people that they had with this man. And I kind of categorized them by different traits of his personality.

I’m not a writer, but the experiences that I’ve had, all those things, I said, “You’re in a pretty unique position, so put it together and see what happens.” It took me 21 years, but I got it done!

What was that process like for you?

As I look back on it, there was a significant learning process. Not about Ben Hogan necessarily, but about life in general.

One of the things I realized was that Ben Hogan was a very humble man. After he won the British Open somebody asked him how he won all these tournaments he said, “I couldn’t have done it without the Lord.”

I hope that he did it as an encouragement for those who have been seriously sick or broken in body as he once was.

I know that after the accident and the outpouring of concern and support he felt he was playing for something greater than himself. But I don’t think he’d ever have said that…

No he wouldn’t. You know, he’d write letters to people, people who’d been stricken with cancer or had been in some serious accident.

And he’d begin his letters…with, with your permission or something to let them know he didn’t want to interrupt their lives. The same thing with golf, he didn’t just walk up there and join our group…he asked first. He was very considerate of others.

But looking back on my life, and how I came to the Ben Hogan company, I came to the conclusion that I was supposed to write this book. [There have been] too many turns in the road, many of which I had nothing to do with — it began with my father passing away when I was six — too many things to call them coincidence.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Paul Daley

    Jul 4, 2016 at 3:11 am

    I have read Tim Scott’s book from cover to cover. It is a wonderful account of the world’s greatest ever golfer.
    My hope is that when my new book on Ben Hogan comes out (15 December 2016), that it does half as good a job as Tim did.
    The books are completely different, as my account is a pictorial depiction of all the big moments in Hogan’s career. Plus, there are many non-golf images of BH, and plenty of memorabilia.
    Strictly limited to 500 copies, and carrying a subscribers’ list on the inside front page, I am happy to reserve anyone a copy. Many of the 125 images have never been seen before by the public.
    Contact Paul Daley on my email: [email protected]

  2. Ben

    May 15, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Best non-instructional article I’ve read on WRX. Does anyone know who owns the rights to the Hogan Company? I didn’t realize they were selling a new iron and wedge model

  3. tooc

    May 11, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    IKE is 100% correct

  4. Ike

    May 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    He did cup his left wrist. What he never said in film or in his books is that the first move of the wrist was to make it flat. Jim McClean has many films of Mr. Hogan and has written extensively about his swing. Watch the films and look at the pictures. It is a very telling move that allowed him to take the club back in a relatively shallow plane and start down with the club in a great position for the second plane and the contact he desired. P 31 and 88 in Five Lessons.

    • Gerald Chessen

      May 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      He explained the cupping in a Life Magazine article, which he was paid a great deal of money for those times. He was a chronic ‘hooker’ until he went to the cupped wrist. If you didn’t get rid of the cup you would hit the ball dead right.

  5. Jang Hyung-sun

    May 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Definitely cupped left wrist. The exact opposite of say Dustin Johnson, which has a bowed left wrist. Not flat, not bowed….but CUPPED!

  6. MHendon

    May 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I think many private or socially shy, awkward people are mistaken as being rude, conceited, d–ks. My guess is one day they’ll be writing this same book about Tiger.

  7. gvogel

    May 10, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Good article. I just picked up the book on Kindle.

  8. Simeon

    May 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Great photo on the cover which clearly shows his cupped left wrist!

    • RG

      May 10, 2015 at 1:19 am

      Dude, Hogan didn’t cup his wrist, he cocked his wrist.

      • slimeone

        May 10, 2015 at 9:44 am

        Nah it’s cupped, that was his “secret” apparently. Cocking is a different motion altogether and not the opposite of cupped, which is bowed.

        • Scott

          May 15, 2015 at 5:24 pm

          Could you explain the difference between cupping and cocking? they seem similar to me.

    • MHendon

      May 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      looks basically flat to me

  9. BC

    May 9, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Excellent article about Mr. Hogan. You said that you talked with Eldridge Miles about Mr. Hogan, who played a lot with Mr. Hogan. I know Eldridge (friends call him ‘Big E’) well. I see Big E 3-4 times a week. He lives in North Dallas, is a member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and still gives lessons at age 81. Big E played over 200 rounds of golf with Mr. Hogan (the most of anyone still alive), and has a lot of very interesting stories to tell about the man and also his golf swing.

    • Bill

      May 10, 2015 at 10:43 am

      That’s pretty neat. I bet he has some great stories.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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