What If?

My father and his traveling companion Henry Picard were in Fort Worth, Texas to play in two exhibition matches on January 1-2, 1938. Before long, they were joined by Sam Snead and Johnny Revolta for the publicized event held at Colonial Golf Club.

On New Year’s Eve, 1937, Dad and Picard went out for the evening and decided to have dinner at the celebrated Blackstone Hotel. After being seated, my father took a quick look around and happened to see Valerie and Ben Hogan sitting at a table on other side of the dining room.

At that time, Picard and Hogan were not yet acquainted with each other. Actually, by the end of 1937, there were a number of PGA Tour regulars who weren’t familiar with Ben Hogan; who had joined the pro circuit toward the end of 1931 but still had not established himself out there. Adding to the challenge of getting to know Ben Hogan was his complex personality. His never-ending custom was to keep to himself on the golf course and give the distinct appearance of being standoffish.  Nevertheless, Dad knew that Picard was anxious to meet Hogan and figured that this was his chance to introduce them.

As my father and Picard got up from their table and made their way across the dining room, they began to overhear some of the conversation coming from the Hogan’s table. Evidently, Ben was “talking rather loudly” with his wife Valerie.

It soon became apparent that the Hogan’s were having a difference of opinion. Ben appeared relieved to see a close friend like Dad and to meet Picard who arguably was the Tour’s best player at the moment. He politely asked the two men to join them for a few minutes, because he needed to hear what they thought about the predicament he and his wife were facing. The Hogans’ disagreement was over whether they had enough money to go on tour together.

Hogan was very discouraged. “I’ve got to quit,” he told his tablemates. “If I go back on the tour, we don’t have the money for her to go with me.” That said, the Hogans eyed each other silently as Dad and Henry did their best to encourage them that it was in their best interest for Ben to play and for Valerie to be there with him. Then, Picard declared, “I’m not the richest man in the world, but go ahead and play. If you run out of money, I’ll take care of it.” Both my dad and Picard knew that Hogan was a determined and talented fellow who was much too stubborn not to succeed.

Ben Hogan did hang in there for the 1938 season and at the Hershey Four-Ball tournament (with partner, Vic Ghezzi) finally took the first of his sixty-four wins as a professional. It’s amazing to think how close this great player came to chucking the game before even accumulating his first win. Dad, Picard and a number of others had to feel gratified, knowing that they’d played a role in keeping Ben Hogan going during his darkest days.



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