This Day in Hogan History:
By: Mark Baron
On April 1, 1940 Ben shot a final round 69 to win the Asheville “Land of the Sky” Open earning $1,200.00. This was his third victory in a row and with the victory overtook Jimmy Demaret as the tour’s annual leading money winner with $6,438 to $6,152. He eventually won the 1940 top-money prize with $10,655 and collected the Vardon Trophy as well.
In the first round, Ben shot a three under par 67 at Asheville Country Club (now the Grove Park Inn’s course) to be in a fifth place tie with Byron Nelson behind the leaders Dick Metz, Ralph Guldahl and Lloyd Mangrum who shot six-under-par 64’s and Henry Picard who shot a 65.
In the second round Ben shot a 67 at Beaver Lake Golf Course (now Country Club of Asheville) to finish in a tie for second with Lloyd Mangrum, one shot behind the leader Ralph Guldahl. The highlight of the round came when Hogan stunned the large gallery by nearly driving the green on the par-four, 353-yard 16th hole.
Hogan never let up, turning Sunday’s final 36 holes at Biltmore Forest Country Club into what a local sports writer termed a monotonous game of “straight down the middle and dead to the pin,” shooting a pair of 69’s for a three stroke for a 273 total and three-shot win over Ralph Guldahl.
The normally reserved Hogan, with his $1,200 check in hand, joked during the awards ceremony about the swarms of pesky gnats that the players had battled during the tournament. “You misnamed this tournament, Frank,” the grinning winner told Frank Coxe, head of the Civic Sports Association. “Instead of Land of the Sky, it should be Land of the Fly.”
Ben talked about his hot putting, “Naturally, I notice the distance while I’m ling up a putt. But then I’m finally get over the ball, I’m concentrating so hard on keeping that face straight that the distance often slips my mind.”
“They used to kid me about practicing so much – I’d get out before a round and practice and practice some more when I was through. Now they can kid me all they like.”
“He’s a fine golfer, he’s been long overdue,” Clayton Heafner said. “He’s one of the best. He’ll be hard to beat in this tournament.”
“The game becomes monotonous the way the slender man plays it,” newspaperman Jake Wade commented afterward. “He has all the shots and he tears into the ball with amazing power for one of such slight build. It is a straight, true and unwavering game.”
Added Johnny Revolta: “It was easy to see we couldn’t catch that fellow, the way he is playing. You can’t beat perfection.”
In the last three tournaments that Ben won:
- He played 216 holes at 34-under-par,
- He broke par 11 of 12 rounds.
- He broke 70 in 10 of the 12 rounds.
- He three putted just two greens, the third hole at Beaver Lake and the first hole at the Biltmore Forest Course both in Asheville.
- Ten of twelve rounds were on Donald Ross golf courses (the exception being Starmount Forest).
Ben Hogan is quoted saying, “The second hole at Biltmore Forest Country Club is the greatest par four on the PGA Tour.”
Pictured is Ben Hogan teeing off at the 1940 Asheville Land of the Sky Open and a plaque located at the second hole of the Biltmore Forest Country Club quoting Ben Hogan as the greatest par four on the PGA Tour.