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Home The Ghost of Hogan

Dan Jenkins believes he knew the late, great Ben Hogan better than any other writer. It isn’t often, especially in today’s day and age, where a scribe has the chance to play with one of the very best o have ever played the game. Jenkins has and isn’t bashful about sharing some of his experiences with Hogan. 

“I played golf with him over 40 times all through the 1950s when he was at his peak. He called me up one day, I used to watch him practice. He'd say, let's go play. One day in 1956 he called me at the paper on the phone and said, I'm going to play an exhibition for the U.S. Olympic fund, and I want you in the foursome. And I said, Ben, there's got to be somebody better than me. He said, no. You're the one I want. We'll have a lot of fun. My brother will play, there will be four of us. So I go out there and I expected maybe a couple hundred people. There are 3,000 people lining the first fairway. I somehow got off the tee okay down the fairway without injuring myself or anybody else, and then I topped a 3‑wood, then I topped another 3‑wood, then I top scraped a 5‑iron, and all I wanted to do was dig a hole and disappear. I could hear giggles in the gallery. Who is this idiot? How did this guy get here? Then I realized Ben was walking beside me as I dropped my ball and he gave me the greatest golf tip at the time under those conditions I've ever had. This proves he had a sense of humor. He said, you can probably swing faster if you try hard enough,” Jenkins recalled. 

“That's a true story. I must have looked like I was swatting mosquitos or something. I slowed it down and got around in something under 80, I think. But it's true that he offered to give me a lesson one day after we played a practice round at Colonial. We were sitting around having an iced tea or a drink or something, and he said, you can keep the ball in the fairway off the tee and you're a good putter. I wish I had your putting stroke, which is true, but he said, everything in between is a mystery, and I said, yeah. He said, if you will work with me three days a week for the next four months, you might be good enough to play in the national amateur, qualify and play the national amateur. And I said, Ben, I'm flattered and I appreciate that, and I'm embarrassed to have to turn down an offer of free golf lessons from the greatest player in the world, but I just want to be a sports writer. That's all I've ever wanted to be. He looked at me like I've seen him look at other people, with that cold stare, and you don't know whether you're going to get a bullet in the head or a dagger in the heart, and you wait and it seems like an eternity, and then he smiled and he said, well, keep working at it,” Jenkins fondly remembered. “That's what I've been doing for the last 60 years, and I guess I'll keep doing it until I topple over and they start to work on my tombstone.  I've already picked out two things. The first one is going to be, ‘I knew this would happen.’ But I've got a better one. The better one is you guys hold it down here, I've off to the next great adventure.”