Readers of RedState may know that I was a regular front-page contributor for a while before life, circumstance and the good Lord took me, and my place in our larger fight for freedom and in defense of the American way of life to different places. I remain an active reader – and, shall we say, facilitator for other writers. Many have wondered why I write under the name “hogan.” It is because the legendary golfer and American sports icon, Ben Hogan, is a hero of mine – and I chose the lower case “h” because only he is Mr. Hogan.
Mr. Hogan was never a father. This may have been so because Mr. Hogan’s own father Chester committed suicide when Ben was only 9 years old, possibly in front of him. But I always will associate Mr. Hogan with Father’s Day and all that it represents – including what it means to persevere and to work hard to succeed and to win (in golf, in life and in politics). Such always was the American way – and it is why we are a great nation and a great people.
I particularly think of Mr. Hogan as we watch the final round of the United States Open Championship at Merion Golf Club – the site of perhaps Mr. Hogan’s greatest triumph. (Hat tip to the USGA for taking the Open back to a venue deemed “to small” to handle it).
You see Mr. Hogan was nearly killed in 1949 at the pinnacle of his career – having won two majors in 1948 and gearing up for the season. Driving in West Texas on highway 80, he was driving with his wife Valerie (to whom he stayed married until his passing in 1997) when a massive Greyhound bus crossed the line and hit them head on. Mr. Hogan threw himself in front of his wife at the last second. The car was destroyed. He was badly injured, coming in and out of consciousness as they waited 1.5 hours for help – and his legs were crushed.
17 months later – Mr. Hogan, who has been told he would perhaps never walk again – walked up the 18th fairway at Merion Golf Club needing a par on perhaps the hardest closing hole in golf to force a playoff. He hit a 1 iron – approximately the size of a butter knife – to 40 feet left of the pin, a shot memorialized in one of the most iconic photographs in sports history. He went on to win the 18-hole playoff on Monday, despite suffering from severe pain – his crisp, tailored pants covering his wrapped legs.
I have a special appreciation for Mr. Hogan’s perseverance…
My dad had polio as a child. He, too, barely survived. My grandmother was a single mother of two in West Texas after my grandfather died of cancer when my dad was 7 years old, and my uncle was 2. She drove hundreds of miles to get my dad through therapy and not only to survive but also to walk. Not only to walk, but to play Pony League baseball, tennis and high school golf.
My dad – unable to hit a drive more than about 200 yards on a good day – was never going to compete at top levels… but my dad taught me golf. He taught me the rules, the history, how to play and all the game represents. As a West Texan, my dad taught me about Mr. Hogan and Mr. Byron Nelson – both as models of how to play and how to act as a man. Mr. Nelson was known as the consummate gentleman… a humble Christian who left in his prime to ranch. Mr. Hogan was the model of work ethic – driven to perform and to win. And, despite growing up in poverty – and despite the tragedy of losing his father, Mr. Hogan became arguably the greatest striker of a golf ball the world has known.
Mr. Hogan didn’t complain. He didn’t ask for special favors or handouts. He didn’t quit. He just kept going – living paycheck to paycheck, scrimping to get by – sharing an orange with his wife as a meal.
Mr. Hogan didn’t sue the USGA or the PGA Tour for the right to ride a golf cart because of his circumstance. He didn’t play terribly at Merion and then tweet about how “unfair” the course is or how the USGA set up is too penal.
He didn’t dress like a moron in some quest for Paris fashion show praise with florescent colours (yes), silly hat bills or ridiculous shoes. In fact, he defined understated class and style. He once famously quipped when asked about dressing “dress, don’t decorate.” Amen, sir.
He didn’t cheat on his wife and crash into a telephone pole trying to escape her wrath – rather, he threw his body in front of her to save her life.
He didn’t accept 2nd best. As a businessman – it is said when starting the Ben Hogan Company, his partner was ok with putting out clubs that Mr. Hogan deemed sub-par. So, he snuck in the middle of the night and cut all the heads off the clubs so they could not be sold – costing him tens of thousands of 1950’s dollars.
He was called “the Hawk,” and the Wee Ice Mon – among other nicknames. Someone once asked a friend of his, “why is Mr. Hogan not very nice.” The friend replied “oh, he’s very nice – but he just doesn’t suffer fools.”
He was revered as an icon of steely resolve, meticulous perfection and ultimately with one famous shot, of the American way – coming back from whatever life deals us to persevere and to win.
Today is a very special day. And while Father’s Day is the most obvious reason why– for many of us it is the confluence of that great celebration with the final round of the United States Open that makes it so great.
I will always thank my dad for introducing me to this great game and for instilling in me an appreciation for Mr. Hogan and that steely resolve…
Americans need that resolve today. It is in us – it always has been. It is up to us who understand that fact to fight to remind Americans that what brought us here is what will get us to where we want to go.
Thank you Mr. Hogan. Thank you, dad. And, Happy Father’s Day.