Near the top of the list of trigger words that prompt Pavlovian slobbering among serious golfers are these: Hogan and Merion. So from a marketing standpoint, author David Barrett hit upon the mother lode when he decided to chronicle Ben Hogan’s improbable 1950 U.S. Open title at Merion. It doesn’t hurt that the Ardmore, Pa., club remains relevant, having been rescued from championship exile, with the 2013 U.S. Open on the way.
“Miracle at Merion” represents an earnest effort to thoroughly chronicle Hogan’s triumph, though at times there’s the sense that Barrett dumped the entirety of his research into a book whose dramatic story line would have benefited from tighter editing. He spent the first half of the book telling the back story of life on tour in the 1940s, Hogan’s 1949 auto accident, rehab and many of the players who played a role, however peripheral, in the 1950 Open. Only in the final 150 pages does the story shift to Merion.
Barrett’s research is admirable, but there are times when readers probably will wish that he had dug deeper. He writes at length about inconsistencies regarding Hogan’s 1-iron – Did Hogan really hit a 2-iron on the 72nd hole? Was the 1-iron stolen immediately after that famous shot? – but doesn’t necessarily clarify the issue.
Still, it’s hard to imagine that the library of any golf history buff or Hogan fanatic wouldn’t include this tome.