It’s a story about golf, about perseverance and hard work, about rivalry, about Dublin, and about life in America.
Fans of either of the golf greats know what Glen Garden was – it was the tiny course near downtown Fort Worth where the paths of Hogan and Nelson first crossed – and where both of them began their lifelong addiction to golf. They were young teenagers when they discovered they could earn 60 cents for caddying, which was a lot more money than Hogan was earning as a paperboy trying to help support his family after the death of his father. Hogan walked six miles round trip each day to the course, often arriving in the pre-dawn hours and napping in a sand trap until the first golfers arrived.
Predictably, Hogan would soon develop a desire to try it for himself, but his introduction to golf wasn’t easy. He dealt with issues of being left handed with no left handed clubs, or being very small for his age, for having no money to purchase good clubs and for having a terrible hook which he fought most of his life. It was probably far easier for Nelson to become successful because of an abundance of natural talent which Hogan felt he personally didn’t have.
The Glen Garden story is the foundation for a fascinating look at the lives of the two men (who would have both turned 100 years old this year). Nelson was successful right away while Hogan went broke twice (and almost three times) trying to turn pro. Nelson’s goal in life was to purchase the Roanoke ranch which is still in his family so as soon as he had enough money to buy the land, he did so, in the mid-40s.
Meanwhile, Hogan hit his stride much later and played much longer – but was severely restricted to the number of tournaments he was physically capable of playing because of the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a 1949 head-on car crash with a passenger bus.
Miller’s book is jam-packed with fascinating background and little known facts, particularly about Hogan’s early days in Dublin. Considerable amount of space is devoted to the Dublin-DeLeon Golf Course (where Hogan won his last amateur event before turning pro) and the modern-day event which occurs there each year, the Cow Pasture Golf Classic, which is a fund raiser for the Ben Hogan Museum of Dublin.
Let me recommend this book as a Christmas gift for anyone who loves golf, admires Hogan and Nelson, or enjoys area history. Copies are available at the Ben Hogan Museum in downtown Dublin.
Jeff Miller is a Dallas-area sports journalist who has written about the 1967 American League penant chase, about Florida college football, about the renegade American Football League, and the Dallas Cowboys. His current project involves early football at the University of North Texas. He is a frequent visitor to Dublin and has participated in the annual Cow Pasture Golf Classic as well as the annual Ben Hogan Birthday Banquets.