Did Ben Hogan Win Five U.S. Opens?
It seems obvious that Ben Hogan always felt he won five U.S. Opens, not the four – Riviera in 1948, Merion in 1950, Oakland Hills in 1951 and Oakmont in 1953 – listed in the record books.
Irving historian and writer Bill Greene makes this point in an imaginary conversation between Hogan and Jack Nicklaus in a script that he recently wrote. Noted golf writer Dan Jenkins also believed Hogan felt that way, recalling a conversation where someone congratulated Hogan on his second Open after the win at Merion in 1950. Hogan responded, “third.” A similar conversation reportedly occurred after his win at Oakland Hills where Hogan responded, “fourth.”
It seems that after World War II broke out, Interlachen in Minneapolis, the original site for the 1942 U.S. Open, opted to not serve as the host course. The USGA in cooperation with the PGA of America and the Chicago District Golf Association instead set up the Hale America National Open at Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago. It was run just like the U.S. Open with more than 1,500 entries, local qualifying at 69 sites and sectional qualifying at most of the major cities. All the top players were in the field.
Thanks to a second-round 62 and a rally to overcome a two-stroke deficit to Jimmy Demaret with four holes to play, Hogan took the title. The headline in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the next morning read: “Hale America is first major title for Texas pro.” Since the event went by a different name, evidently some historians just didn’t want the victory to count.
If you have been to the Ben Hogan Trophy room at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, you will see five gold medals that all looked the same to me, adding fuel to the fire that the only difference back in 1942 was the title of the event. The USGA did cancel the U.S. Open from 1942-1945, but I think it’s time to give Hogan the credit for an extra major victory even if you do not want to say it was a fifth U.S. Open.Written by James McAfee
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