This Day in Hogan History: The Greenbrier Open
By: Mark Baron
On May 8, 1950 Ben Hogan shot a final round 66 to win the Greenbrier Open Golf Tournament, at the “Old White Course”, shooting a total 259, 21-under-par to earn $1,250.00, breaking the tournament record by six strokes, set by Cary Middlecoff the previous year and tying the all-time lowest four-round aggregate score on the PGA Tour.
This was his first PGA Tournament victory* since his return after a near-fatal auto accident in February, 1949 and his first start since the Masters, in a carefully planned program to rebuild his strength.
Second place went to the Greenbrier’s home PGA professional, Sam Snead, ten strokes back.
The Pro – Am team of Hogan and Paul Shields, a successful Wall Street financier finished in fourth place.
By shooting a 259, Ben tied the PGA record for the lowest four round aggregate score on a par 70 course set by Byron Nelson in 1945 at the 6,368 yard Broadmoor in Seattle. He questioned whether the record he tied should be counted: “Personally, I consider the 27 under par 261 I shot over the Portland Oregon Country Club course, also in 1945 the only real record. After all, that’s the best that’s ever been done on a par 72 test, and it’s how much you break par that counts.”
In the first round Hogan shot a 64 to take a two stroke lead over Snead and Henry Ransom. Ben when asked about nearly breaking the course record 63, missing the mark by one stroke said, “I could not see that I was doing anything extra.”
In the second round, Ben shot his second consecutive 64 to take a four stroke lead over Skip Alexander and a six stroke margin over Sam Snead. Ben made his only bogey up to that point in the tournament on the third hole, but still shot a 32 on the outward nine, matching it with a 32 on the inward nine.
In the third round Ben shot a five-under par 65 to stretch his lead over Skip Alexander to seven strokes.
In the fourth round he admitted that he was not as sharp with his approach shots in the final round as the three previous, but he did make the gallery very excited when he hit his second shot on the 356 par four 14th hole, just four inches from the cup. His putting was very sharp, dropping one from 20 feet and another from 18 feet in two of his five birdies.
Ben’s explanation for shooting such low scores: “I’m not staging a comeback; I just had a little rest and am picking up where I left off.”
It was during this tournament that Middleground won the Kentucky Derby.
Pictured is the cover of the June, 1950 Golfdom magazine with the crowd watching Ben Hogan putting on the 72nd hole of Greenbrier’s White Course to tie the all-time PGA record with a 259 to win the event, breaking the tournament record by six strokes.
* In the 1980’s the PGA Tour removed the nine Greenbrier Tournaments (along with numerous other events) that were held between 1949 and 1961 from official sanctioned PGA Tournament status, but at the time the 1950 the Greenbrier was played it was considered an official PGA sanctioned event.
Today, we consider Ben’s first official PGA Tour victory after his accident to be the US Open at Merion, but, in 1950 the Greenbrier was considered his first victory.
The tournaments in the early years of professional golf lacked continuity so it was open to conjecture about which tournaments should be considered “official” and which were merely exhibitions. So, in the 1980’s the PGA TOUR assembled a panel to decide what tournaments in the early years of professional golf should be considered official. The criteria included the tournament’s historical significance, whether it was part of the official schedule of events, its purse size, the size and quality of the field and at which course a tournament contested its event. The panel found that the Greenbrier did not meet the standards and removed the following victories from “official” career wins: 1961 (Sam Snead), 1960 (Dave Marr), 1959 (Sam Snead), 1958 (Sam Snead), 1957 (E.J. “Dutch” Harrison), 1953 (Sam Snead), 1952 (Sam Snead), (1950 Ben Hogan) and 1949 (Cary Middlecoff). There were numerous other events that were removed, as well.
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