“DID YOU KNOW”
Ben Hogan won his first PGA Tour event at the Hershey Country Club!
Most golfers know that Ben Hogan won every major golf championship, along with many other titles. You probably have heard about how Hogan struggled for years to become a successful touring pro, but you may not know that his first win came at the Hershey Country Club.
In the early days of the PGA Tour Milton Hershey was making money selling chocolate, and was also a golfer who owned the Hershey CC. In 1933 he held the first Hershey Open at his course, which offered a purse of $1,500. The Hershey Open continued for the next four years, but in 1938 Mr. Hershey changed the format. He had his professional, Henry Picard, invite 16 golf professionals for a “round-robin” event composed of eight two-man teams. It was seven 18-hole rounds, with each team playing a match against the other seven teams, one by one. All of the 16 invited professionals had wins on the PGA Tour except one, Ben Hogan. Mr. Hershey questioned Picard about inviting Hogan. Even though Hogan hadn’t won anything yet, Picard replied that he thought Hogan was going to be a great player.
All of the big name golfers were there, including Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Gene Sarazen. Hogan’s partner was Tommy Armour, who at the age of 42 may not have been up to 126 holes of competitive golf in four days. Hogan may have gotten lucky when Armour broke a bone in his hand and had to withdraw. Vic Ghezzi, who lived in New Jersey and had won the North & South Open earlier that year, was brought in at the last minute to team up with Hogan. Now Hogan and his partner were the youngest team in the event. The Hershey Country Club members held a Calcutta Auction the night before the tournament began, and the Hogan-Ghezzi team sold for less than all of the other teams, by a large amount.
One round was played on Thursday September 1, and two rounds were played on each of the next three days. In the first round the Hogan-Ghezzi team put together a twelve under par 61 (12 birdies and 6 pars) to defeat the team of Picard and Johnny Revolta by five holes. That put the winners at plus 5, and they never looked back. They led by nine points after the second day, and by eight after the third day. In the seventh and last round they beat Nelson and Ed Dudley five down. When it was all over Hogan and Ghezzi were plus 17 and 15 points ahead of the second place team of Sam Snead and Paul Runyan, who were plus 2. All of the other teams were at zero points or minus.
Hogan and Ghezzi played the 126 holes in 53 under par, and they each took home $550 from a total purse of $4,600. The total prize money at the U.S. Open that year was $5,800. In 1941 Hogan, on the recommendation of Henry Picard, became golf professional at the Hershey CC and Ghezzi won the PGA Championship.