1942: Ben Hogan Wins the U.S. Hale America Open by Three Strokes
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On June 21, 1942 Ben Hogan shot a final round 68 to win the Hale America Open (in what should count as his first major victory as a United States Open) at the Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago to win by three strokes over his friend Jimmy Demaret and Mike Turnesa to earn $1,200.00 in War Bonds ($1,000.00 equivalent).
In the first round, Mike Turnesa and Otey Crisman shot course-record-tying 65s to share the lead by two strokes over Lighthorse Harry Cooper, Lloyd Mangrum, Lawson Little, Al Brosch and Mike Sipula. Ben shot an even par round of 72 to finish in a fifteen-way tie for 49th place.
Bobby Jones made a rare golfing appearance and shot a one under par 71, matched by another veteran, Gene Sarazen. The course was giving up low scores as 48 players broke par and another 15 players equaled it.
In the second round, Ben posted a 10 under par 62, smashing the course record of 65 established by the second-round leader Mike Turnesa in 1937 and matched in the first round by Turnesa and Otey Crismnan. Hogan was three strokes back of Turnesa who finished with a two-day total of 134.
In the third round, the weather conditions were not ideal with rain, fog, and soaked fairways, but Hogan shot a 69 to finish in a tie with Turnesa, with Jimmy Demaret one stroke back.
In the final round, Demaret had a two-stroke lead after the 68th hole but had a couple of bad breaks coming in.
His tee shot on the 15th hole lodged behind a tree had to hit a left-handed safety shot and took a bogie six. On the 16th hole, he hit a spectator with his second shot costing him another stroke.
Turnesa finished with a 71 to finish in a tie for second with Demaret. Hogan, playing with Bobby Jones, just behind the Demaret group, picked up four strokes over five holes to finish the tournament with a blaze.
Over 15,000 spectators watched Hogan drain a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole to take the victory.
Hogan had five birdies in the final round thanks to his putter. His only bogey of the round came at the par three eighth hole. Byron Nelson finished in a tie for fourth place with Horton Smith and Jimmy Thomson.
With the victory, Ben increased his tour leading money winning pace to $11,248.00. Ben was the leading money winner for the past two years.
Ben Hogan and many golf fans and historians feel that this victory should be counted as his first major win (which would give him five US Open titles and 10 major career victories).
Just weeks before the US Open was scheduled to be played, Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota, opted not to serve as the host course because of the escalation of violence in World War II, even though we had not yet declared war on the Axis Powers.
The USGA together with the PGA of America and the Chicago District Golf Association decided that a U.S. Wartime Open should still be contested and a substitute course was selected, Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club.
By winning the event Hogan was awarded $1,200 in War Bonds (one of the highest payouts of the year) and the USGA gold medal (nearly identical to all other U. S. Open medals, complete with the USGA logo) from George Blossom, the president of the USGA.
But for various reasons, the USGA does not want to recognize this as an official US Open.
Their reasoning includes that the USGA did not have substantial time to set up the course conditions and that Hogan’s four-round total score of 17-under-par 271 was substantially lower than previous (and subsequent) U. S. Open winning scores.
But, the USGA co-sanctioned the event and administered the rules.
All the contestants had to qualify and play in the same format as any other U. S. Open. There were qualifying tournaments with more than 1,500 entries, held at 69 local qualifying sites and sectional qualifying sites at most of the major cities.
Most of all the top players were in the field and the leaderboard was equal to the Masters played earlier that spring and the PGA played the following month.
Both the PGA and the Masters played that year counted as major victories for the winners of those tournaments (Nelson and Snead).