Ben Hogan's wife remembers
husband as exhibit open in USGA Museum.
It wasn't the trophies,
the medals, the trademark white hat or any of the other memorabilia in the room
dedicated to Ben Hogan that caused his wife to pause and cry briefly.
The items were a magnificent
tribute to one of golf's greatest players, a man whose success was not only measured
on the course, but also in his courageous battle to return there after a near-fatal
The sad part for Valerie
Hogan was her beloved Ben wasn't there to share the experience.
"Ben would have loved this,"
she said Tuesday as the USGA Museum opened the Ben Hogan Room, the first it has
dedicated to the life and career of a professional golfer. Hogan died two years
ago at age 84.
Valerie Hogan talked about
his golf, his 63 career victories and nine majors, she talked about his love
of practicing, his personality, his battle to come back from the 1949 accident,
and most of all, her love for him.
"I would give anything if
he could be here, even if I were not here," Valerie Hogan said, and there was
no doubt she meant it.
The 24-case permanent exhibit
includes more than 300 objects, with the majority coming from Valerie Hogan.
It details Ben Hogan's early years -- did you know his real first name was William?
-- follows the highlights of his golf career, his accident and recovery and later
his work as a clubmaker.
"I can tell you no one,
no one loved golf more than Ben Hogan," Valerie Hogan said.
However, playing in tournaments
wasn't what Ben Hogan enjoyed most. It was practicing on the range.
"I think he felt the actual
playing of golf was for something else," she said. "Where he really enjoyed it
was on the practice tee and then hoping he would play the way he would like to
One of the most feared golfers
of his time, Hogan was known as a loner by many competitors. He spent endless
hours on the practice range and was known to be a man of few words during a round.
Off the course, Valerie
Hogan said her husband of six decades was a man of many interests who tried to
do his best at everything. He also didn't speak much off the course, for a reason.
"He could discuss almost
any subject with you because he was the best listener," she said. "As he said:
`People who talk all the time don't learn anything because you have to listen,
that's how you learn,' and believe you me, he listened."
That wasn't true all the
time, especially during his recovery from the head-on collision with a bus in
1949 that shattered his legs. After that, he always played in pain.
In the first month after
the accident, Hogan barely survived blood clots in his left leg. It took him
almost a year to start swinging a club again, said his wife, who admits she was
never sure whether he would play again.
"After he got home, he surprised
me one day," she said. ``He so wanted to walk sometimes, he would slip out of
the house. ... He would be out trying to walk and sometimes I'd have to go in
the car and find him."
Within 16 months, he would
win the U.S. Open in a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, much to the
surprise of his wife. He qualified for the playoff by playing a 36-hole final
day at Merion.
"I'd have to say that the
night he came in, I didn't feel he would have the strength the next morning because
his eyes were in the back (of his head) and he was so very, very tired. I felt
that he was not going to be able to play the next day."
But Hogan slept like a baby
and woke up refreshed the next morning.
"Even then I doubted he
would have the strength," she said. ``I was probably the most surprised person
Hogan would go on to win
two more U.S. Opens -- only Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson have
won as many -- and the 1953 British Open at Carnoustie. He won the Masters and
U.S. Open that same year, when he won five of the six tournaments in which he
Valerie and friends had
to persuade Hogan to play in the British Open, the only time he did.
"He kept saying, `I just
think you want me to go just to see me get beat over there,"' his wife said.
Valerie Hogan's funniest
comment was about the movie "Follow The Sun," which portrayed her husband's life
and starred Glenn Ford.
"Glenn Ford, he worked so
hard, but he did not know how to play golf, but he told them he did," she said.
A woman who knew very little
about golf when she married, Valerie Hogan has grown to love the game. She still
watches it all the time. Justin Leonard is her favorite player.
Asked if anyone reminds
her of her husband, she bluntly says, "No."
"I don't think it's fair
to compare," she said. ``I think he was the greatest, especially when he came
back. I know what he went through and all that he did."