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April 25, 2017

Golfing traveller

Monday, March 20, 2017

Everyone chasing Ben Hogan’s secret

Golfer Ben Hogan, considered to be one of the game’s greatest players.
Golfer Ben Hogan, considered to be one of the game’s greatest players.
By David Mackintosh / For the Herald
Ben Hogan had a secret. That much is certain. Exactly what it was has been one of golf’s great mysteries. The publication this week of Ben Hogan’s Secret Fundamental by Larry Miller, (Triumph Books) offers a new take on the enigma.
Over the years many authors have speculated upon what it was that Hogan, whose early career was frustrated by a violent hook, discovered to turn himself into the purest ball-striker ever to play the game.
Hogan appeared to have resolved the issue with a 1955 article in Life magazine titled, “My Secret,” which when combined with his top-selling instructional standard, Five Lessons ­ The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, should have brought speculation to an end. Instead, virtually everyone was convinced Hogan was holding back on something huge and important.
That’s been the case ever since and numerous authors have tackled the subject, some with considerable distinction. Yet so far nobody has been able to provide the complete answer. The question is, does Miller?
First, consider if there really is a secret. In this age of computerised swing analyses, surely all the mysteries have been revealed. So the real question now might be, did Hogan unravel the mystery more than half a century ago? Irrespective, consider Hogan’s numbers, crazy great however you tweak them.
Bantam Ben Hogan, 5ft,9in. (1.74m) turned pro in 1932 and during his first seven years won just once. After discovering “The Secret,” during the next eight years, less a two-and-half year stint in the US Air Force, Hogan won 53 tournaments and additionally finished in the top-three 44 times. Out of 176 tournaments, that’s fifty-five percent. No wonder people thought he’d mined golfing uranium.
On February 2, 1949, 36-year old Hogan and wife Valerie, driving from Arizona to Texas were struck head-on by a Greyhound bus. Hogan threw himself across Val to protect her, suffering a double-fractured pelvis, broken collar bone, left ankle fracture, chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots. He spent 59 days in hospital and was told he’d never play golf again.
The power of the secret proved too strong. First he just hobbled, re-learning to walk on a stick. His first feeble swing almost knocked him out. Yet he persisted. Every day. Every single day for the rest of the year.  
Hogan’s subsequent record is the most extraordinary thing in golf. Bandaging his legs to enable him to walk, over the next four years he played a total of 24 events, his amazing 11 wins including three US Opens, two Masters and the (British) Open at Carnoustie.
Author Larry Miller is a lifetime member of the PGA of America, a former tour player and an excellent writer. He was mentored by one of Hogan’s protégés, thus gaining access to the exclusive inner circle of Hogan’s confidants. He surrounds his telling of “the secret” with a wealth of anecdotes that make this new title a true pleasure for those who enjoy the history of our game.
I’m not going to give away anything when I say I’m really impressed by Miller’s compete understanding of the golf swing, and how simple it is to see the relationship between what he perceives as the secret and the precise requirements Mr Hogan established for the pupil in his Five Lessons.
A cover quote from Tommy Bolt says it all. “I’ve seen Jack watch Hogan practise, but Hogan never watched him. Everyone wanted to know his secret.” A great read. My summary: one can never get enough Hogan.                              
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