By Russell G. Bell
Once upon a time there was a golfer who made
a commercial hitting three separate balls (with the same club)
at a three story factory building. The first ball broke the center
window on the first floor, the second ball broke the center window
on the second floor and the third ball broke the center window
on the third floor. The voice over announcer says “These
guys are good!”
There is no disputing the fact that Tiger is as good as the commercial shows but let’s talk about GREAT for a moment. Try to imagine yourself as a caddy and you have been assigned to shag balls for a Pro who prefers to hit his practice shots out at an unused portion of the course rather than the driving range. Now imagine the first day you are shagging and he tells you to go out 150 fifty yards as he wants to practice with his 8 iron. You go the distance and he fires the first shot. As it is heading for your head you grab the shag bag and run off to the side. After the ball lands you retrieve it and find the next shot is also coming at that space between your eyes! You repeat the shag dance you performed with the first ball, and so it goes with the third and forth etc. The pro finally tells you to leave the shag bag where it is and to move off to the side. No matter which club the Pro was using he would put over 90% of the balls into the shag bag.
Who was this pro who made life easy on the caddy by hitting the balls into the shag bag? He was Ben Hogan. Mr. Hogan (I don’t feel comfortable calling such a great man by his first name without his permission) was truly a legend in his own time. He was a four-time PGA Player of the Year and had 63 tournament wins. This was a man who almost lost his life in a head-on collision with a bus. The accident did, however, impair his eyesight and depth perception with regard to short putts. This problem with his eyesight cost him many tournaments but he never complained - in fact he never mentioned he had a problem, he just kept trying to unsuccessfully overcome the problem.
Mr. Hogan ran a successful business making Professional golf clubs for other players on the tour and even today many years after his death you can still buy custom made clubs from the Hogan Company or you can buy off the rack sets for the serious golfer. There are several professionals on tour using Hogan brand clubs. Look for the logo the next time you are watching a major. If someone comes up with a Ryder Cup dream team it is certain Ben Hogan would be on the team or its captain.
I have not done book reviews in the past but I must put in a word for Afternoons with Mr. Hogan: A Boy, A Golf Legend, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by Jody Vasquez. Jody was the young caddie who had the honor of working for Mr. Hogan back in his youth. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the famous Ben Hogan but I did not have the perspective on this man that I do now. This was a man young boys should have as a role model. I urge you to read this book - it is a quick read which is good, because it is so hard to put down.
Phil and Sergio have both had one-on-one made-for-television competitions against Tiger Woods but I would travel to see the game in person if it were possible to match up Ben Hogan at his prime against Tiger, Phil and Sergio. Ben would make more in that one game than he made during his entire career as a Professional.
I have recently retired and can now indulge in the one passion I have had all of my life, golf. I was an Army brat and each Army post had a golf course and a bowling alley. To earn money, I set pins and caddied.
Automatic pin setters came into use long before the courses had carts for the golfers so my interest stayed with the links. One thing the Army courses lacked was a professional teaching staff so my swing, stance and other fundamentals were developed by watching the golfers. Soon, I spent all of the money I earned on rental clubs, balls, gloves, tees and course fees. I did not own the proper shoes until I was an adult.
I have been playing golf for over 45 years and although it is my passion I chose to live 26 of those years in Alaska where golf was limited by the short season and the hard to get tee times.
I am also a stage actor and have performed in
over 100 stage productions. I have made television commercials,
voice over work on the radio, and print advertising.