Back in 1948, just a soft putt away from greatness, there was a wiry, resolute, feisty and often grumpy guy in a wide, white cap who would not accept defeat without putting up something on the order of a fist fight. He was known, although he had not made the weight in years, as Bantam Ben Hogan, and he played, mechanically as a slot machine, for money, and the jackpots were many.
Five summers, several major championships and one terrible automobile accident later, there was a Wee Icemon, as the—marveling Scots called him at Carnoustie, who would not be defeated. He was broader if not much mellower, and he seemed to play, at least in part, for the record book. That Ben Hogan was perhaps the finest tournament player golf has ever known.
In the past six years there has appeared at a few tournaments, such as the Masters and the Open, a kindly gentleman known as William B. Hogan, a manufacturer of golf equipment from Fort Worth. This Ben Hogan was still a splendid golfer, but it was said that because of age, lack of competition, deterioration of nerve control and business pressures he might never win again. But at 46, and with the girth and thinning hair which are the luggage of the journey into middle age, he last week won his first regulation tournament since 1953.
Hogan was tied at 285 with Fred Hawkins after 72 holes in the Colonial Invitation on his home course in Fort Worth. "I don't like playoffs," said Hogan glumly then. "I don't have much luck in them [he has now won five of 12], mainly because I seem to be keyed up for four days only."
But "running" his irons under a violent, 45-mph wind, Hogan overtook Hawkins on the 4th hole, was 4 up after the 7th and protected his lead from there to the clubhouse for a one-under-par 69.
"It was the best golf I ever played under the conditions," William B. Hogan said. "It has been an awfully dry spell."
RARE SMILES light Ben Hogan's face while he waits, four strokes up, as Fred Hawkins lines up his putt on 13th green during playoff (left) and as he receives trophy for his fifth Colonial win.