This Day in Hogan History:
BEN HOGAN’S FIRST PROFESSIONAL VICTORY, 1938 HERSHEY FOUR-BALL
By: Mark Baron – On September 4, 1938, Ben Hogan played in the final round of his first victory on the PGA tour, the Hershey Four-Ball played at the Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pennsylvania on what is now called the West Course. He teamed with Vic Ghezzi in the 126-hole round-robin match play tournament against seven other two-man teams, earning $2,000 for the team plus an additional $100 each for the low-ball total. The other teams included Byron Nelson / Ed Dudley; “Lighthorse” Harry Cooper / Horton Smith; Ky Laffoon / Dick Metz; Jimmy Thomson / Lawson Little; Gene Sarazen / Jimmy Hines; Henry Picard / Johnny Revolta and Paul “Little Poison” Runyan / Sam Snead. Each team played one 18-hole match on Thursday and two matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tommy Armour dropped out of the tournament a week prior to the event because of a broken bone in his hand and had Vic Ghezzi replace him as Hogan’s teammate.
The Hogan / Ghezzi team were the youngest competitors in the event at ages 26 and 25 respectfully.
- They shocked the field by shooting a 12 under 61 in the first round to beat the hometown pro, Henry Picard and Johnny Revolta five up. Picard / Revolta did not win a hole.
- After the second round Hogan / Ghezzi lead the Byron Nelson / Ed Dudley team by three.
- After the third round, the Hogan / Ghezzi team were at plus 13, nine holes ahead of Runyan / Snead at plus 4, one hole ahead of Nelson / Dudley at plus 3.
- In the fourth round match, Hogan / Ghezzi tied Runyan / Snead only because Hogan / Ghezzi blew up on the last hole by missing two very short makeable putts, but they still maintained an eight-point lead over the field.
- In the fifth round match, Hogan / Ghezzi once again finished in a tie with Metz / Laffoon in their match, but still maintained a seven-point lead going into the final match against Nelson / Dudley.
- In the final match, over 4,000 people came to the tournament to watch the “Dark Horses”, Hogan and Ghezzi shoot a 64 to convincingly beat Nelson / Dudley five up.
- They finished well ahead of all the other teams at plus 17, shooting a record breaking 53-under par, beating the record made by Harry Cooper / Horton Smith the previous year at 38-under par. Second place went to Runyan / Snead with plus 2. Sarazen / Hines tied with Nelson / Dudley at 0 points. Ben had 31 birdies in the tournament, six more than anyone else.
With a significant lead going into the final nine holes, Vic Ghezzi started to relax and showed his appreciation as he acknowledged the applause from the gallery, but Hogan remained oblivious to the fans, unsmiling and determined to the last shot. Ghezzi was quoted as saying after the round: “If we had lost I am quite certain that he would have jumped out of a window.”
Milton Hershey, the sponsor of the event was the first person to congratulate Ben: “I heard from Henry Picard that you were the man to watch the week.”
Hogan replied, “Thank you, Mr. Hershey. I’m glad I didn’t let Henry down. Or you either.”
Milton: “Maybe we should stay in touch.”
Ben: “Yes sir I’d like that.”
As it turned out, Milton Hershey did stay in communication with Ben, hiring him in 1941 to be the Club Professional at Hershey Country Club.
A local newspaper interviewed Ben Hogan’s mother, Clara, after the tournament and she gave credit to Ben’s wife: “Valerie is the only one who can honestly say, ‘I told you so’. The rest of us hoped Ben would make it, but Valerie was always sure he would.”
It took Ben about 10 years on the tour to win his first event, but the floodgates opened up after that. Later in his life, Ben described this victory as his turning point of his career.
Mark Baron is a Ben Hogan expert who posts daily about the legend. Check out Mark's huge following on the Ben Hogan Facebook Page and stay tuned for special Hogan anniversaries for Mark's insight. Check out the page here: www.facebook.com/benhogangolf
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