March 21st: This Day in Hogan history…
Ben Hogan wins his 1st individual PGA title: The North – South Open
By: Mark Baron
On March 21, 1940 Ben Hogan shot a final round 70 to win his first individual golf tournament of his career, at the North and South Open held at Pinehurst. Ben had played in a long stretch of 71 tournaments prior to his this victory. He had come close to winning a number of times before including finishing in second place for two consecutive tournaments earlier that year at Phoenix and Texas, but he was never able to close the deal until this day.
At this time in golf history, The North and South Open Tournament offered one of the most lucrative pay-outs and was considered a major by the players. The tournament was well run, the resort was one of American’s most elite golf spas, the Donald Ross Pinehurst No. 2 course was one of the best designed tracks in the world and the players’ wives were treated with manicures and massages.
Ben arrived at the tournament a week early to practice and study the course’s every little nuance. It was just a couple of weeks earlier at the completion of the Miami-Biltmore Four Ball tournament that Ben approached Henry G. Picard and asked him for advice: “You told me I was going to be a great player, but I hook too much.” Picard answered: I can change that in five minutes. Go get your five iron.” This might have been the first formal lesson – and last – that he ever took.
Prior to the start of this tournament Byron Nelson was given two brand new drivers that he picked up from his equipment sponsor, MacGregor. Ben was also represented by MacGregor, but at that time, Byron was an established star on the tour and was treated with greater respect. The one driver that Byron liked the least was a heavy 14-ounce model that he gave to Ben, who immediately took it to the range and practiced with it until dark. Ben said: “The minute I swung that club I knew it was something special. There’s something about this new driver that fits me like a glove. I tell you, I’ve never driven the ball better.” Ben offered to pay Byron for the club, but Byron just smiled and shook his head and said “I hope it works out for you, Ben.”
His 36 hole total of 133 gave him a seven stroke margin at the half way point of the tournament, tying the course record 66 in the first round followed by a 67. Ben hit every fairway in regulation during the first round, but in spite of the new driver from Byron Nelson and his lesson he received from Henry G. Picard, it was his putting that separated him from the rest of the players.
At the completion of 36 holes, prior to the final day of the tournament, where they played two rounds, Gene Sarazen was quoted “Hogan has never won before, he won’t win this time. Hogan’s been out front before. Someone will catch him.” But Sarazen was wrong. After shooting a third round 74, Ben held a six stroke lead over Snead and Sarazen. Ben shot a 70 in the fourth round, for a four day aggregate score of 11 under par 277, beating the course tournament record by two strokes, set by Vic Ghezzi in 1938 to take the title over Sam Snead by three strokes.
Valerie Hogan was quoted after completion of the tournament: “Don’t pinch me; I’m afraid I will wake up. Ben’s been so close so many times only to see one shot crumble all his hopes. He’s never given up trying, though, even in his darkest hours. That’s why I’m so proud of him now.”
At the presentation ceremony, Hogan was offered the trophy and $1,000 in fresh, green bills by Edward J. Cheyney, a USGA official and friend of Pinehurst’s Richard Tufts. Worried about carrying so much cash with him, Hogan instead asked that a check be drawn and sent to him that weekend in Greensboro.
After the presentation of the trophy ceremony, Ben was quoted: “I won one just in time. I had finished second and third so many times I was beginning to think I was an also-ran. I needed that win. They’ve kidded me about practicing so much. I’d go out there before a round and practice, and when I was through I’d practice some more. Well, they can kid me all they want because it finally paid off. I know it’s what finally got me in the groove to win.”
The victory placed Hogan in second place in the annual money race and in the Harry Vardon point trophy. He trailed Jimmy Demaret in both categories with $4,038 to Demaret’s $6,152 and 144 points to Demaret’s 212. In third place in the Vardon Trophy race was Craig Wood with 105 points followed by Snead and Dick Metz with 97 points, Byron Nelson with 85 points, Jug McSpaden with 77 points, Horton Smith with 70 points, Toney Penna with 59 points and Jimmy Hines with 50 points. Nelson was in third place in the money race with $3,271, Smith with $2,733, Snead $2,708, Wood $2,658, Heafner $2,653, Lawson Little $2,517, McSpaden $2,331, Lloyd Mangrum $2,095 and Paul Runyan $1,838. Hogan would eventually win the 1940 top-money prize with $10,655 and collect the Vardon Trophy as well.
A young reporter from the Greensboro Daily, John Derr (who had a Hall of Fame career as a reporter); phoned in the results of the tournament to his newspaper, but they mistakenly published the headlines “Hagen’s 277 leaves Snead Three Strokes Back”. When John Derr phoned the newspaper to say that they got it wrong and it was Ben Hogan not Walter Hagen, the typesetter replied “Who the Hell is Hogan?” Everyone soon learns who Ben Hogan was as he then goes on to win the next two tournaments after that. In the 12 rounds during the three tournaments, he shot in the 60s 10 times. He falls in love with Pinehurst, winning again in 1942 and 1946, finishing 3rd in 1945 and 6th in 1941. south open south open