One of the smallest men ever to play professional golf provided the game with some of its biggest contributions.
William Ben Hogan was born in Stephenville, Texas on this date in 1912. The family moved to Fort Worth in 1921 and one year later his father, who was a blacksmith, committed suicide, creating financial hardship for Ben, his mother and two brothers. He had to win a fist fight to earn a caddy job at age 11 at Glen Garden Country Club where one of his fellow caddies was Byron Nelson, a future Tour legend and rival. It was through the caddy experience that he got the golf bug, and Hogan worked on his game diligently. He dropped out of Central High School in his senior year and turned pro in January of 1930, several months shy of his 18th birthday. His early years as a pro were a struggle and he did not win his first tournament until March of 1940, when he won three consecutive tournaments in North Carolina and four overall that year. He won 5 events the following season and six in 1942 before serving as a utility pilot lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces from March of 1943 to June of 1945 and returned to win 5 tournaments in the second half of that year. His best year came in 1946, when he won 13 times including his first major, the PGA Championship. “Bantam Ben” won 10 events in 1948, including another PGA and his first U.S. Open and started the 1949 season with wins in Long Beach and Pebble Beach before the car he was driving got into a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on his way to the Phoenix Open. The accident left the 36 year old Hogan with several broken bones and doctors feared he may never walk, let alone play golf, again. He was in the hospital for two months but returned to the PGA Tour in 1950 and lost to Sam Snead in a playoff in his first tournament back. He went on to win the U.S. Open later that year, his only win of the season.
The 5’8”, 145 pound Texan won the Masters and U.S. Open in 1951 but had a season for the ages in 1953, when he won five of the six tournaments he entered, including the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, the only time he played in that storied event. That year’s PGA Championship overlapped with the Open, which were both played in the first part of July, preventing him from attempting to achieve the Grand Slam. He and Tiger Woods  are the only players to win three professional major championships in the same season. “The Hawk” went on to win one more event in his career, the Colonial in 1959 and retired in 1971. He won 69 professional tournaments and nine major championships, tying him with Gary Player for fourth all-time. Hogan is one of only five golfers to have won all four major championships.
Ben Hogan played on two Ryder Cup teams and captained the team three times. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average three times and the Hickok Belt in 1953 as top professional American athlete. Golf Digest ranked him as the second best player of all time in 2000 and, in 2009, Golf Magazine ranked him as the fourth greatest player of all time. His book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf may be the most widely read and important lesson book ever written and he is generally considered to be the finest striker of the golf ball to ever live. “The Wee Mon” was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Mr. Hogan died in Fort Worth in 1997. Today would have been his 103rd birthday.