The year was 1967 and I was twelve years old. Our family would watch the Masters on a black and white television. No high definition or surround sound. At that time the Masters was broadcast on Saturday and Sunday starting around 3:30 pm. What was so special about this Masters? It was the first time I was introduced Ben Hogan. The back nine on Saturday Hogan shot 30 that day. He did it with a case of the yips and legs that were so badly damaged from the 1949 car crash that he could barely make it up the hill on 18. I remembering asking my Father who the guy in the hat was? He said “son that is Hogan. No one plays like him. “Hogan shot 66 that day and he was suddenly relevant for the first time in years. The story up till that point was Jack Nicklaus the defending champion missing the cut. Could it be possible that a 54 year old legend could summon it one time and give the Augusta faithful one more memory? However, it was not to be. The effects from the car accident and four days of walking the terrain of Augusta National caught up with him. Hogan shot a final round 77 and finished tied 10th. What is ironic about this is 29 years later, Nicklaus shoots 30 on the back nine in the fourth round to win the Masters for a record sixth time. Hogan, who was the greatest player of his generation, flirted with greatness again in 1967 and Nicklaus cementing his position as the GOAT in 1986.
Hogan’s greatest legacy to Masters happens Tuesday of Masters Week. For years Hogan had been campaigning Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts to host a dinner for former champions .After about 10 years Roberts finally relented to Hogan and the Champions Dinner was born on April 6th 1952.Hogan was the first host because of his 1951 Masters victory. It is now one of the many highlights of Masters Week where great Champions come together to share a meal, perhaps a cocktail and tell stories. For the golf world is an opportunity to see golf’s royalty assemble in a room for a few hours.
The younger generation of golfers may not know who Ben Hogan was, or what he did on the course, but any golfer who follows the Masters knows about the Champions Dinner. They have Ben Hogan to thank for one of the great Masters traditions that bridges the past Masters Champions with the Champions of today’s game.
Until next time!
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