CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Mike Wright met Ben Hogan as a 21-year-old, and two years later became head pro at Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas, where Hogan was a charter member. Though Wright spent an untold amount of time with the man whom he calls “Mr. Hogan,” they didn’t talk much about Hogan’s one time in Scotland. Mrs. Hogan told that story.
Wright – who flew to Carnoustie this week with his family to watch his student, Angela Stanford, open with a 4-under 68 in the Ricoh Women’s British Open – first came to Scotland in the early ’90s. Not long after he returned, he was at the hospital visiting a very ill Hogan. An emotional Valerie Hogan took Wright’s hand there at Hogan’s bedside and told the story of their only trip to Carnoustie, in 1953.
“She said when Ben went over there right after he landed, he wanted to go home,” Wright said.
The inn that Hogan had planned to stay in couldn’t take him, and he was unimpressed with having to share a bathroom. Valerie said he was accustomed to taking a hot bath in the morning to help loosen up his legs after a debilitating car accident four years earlier. She suggested he ring up an innkeeper whom they’d met previously, and Hogan just happened to have the man’s business card in the pocket of his coat. Turns out they had been waiting for Hogan’s arrival.
The people of Carnoustie fell in love with Hogan, who won the Masters and U.S. Open earlier that year. Hogan liked to eat a steak before the final round, and Wright said he was frustrated with the size of what was served to him at the inn. Valerie told him that he was going to happily eat his meal because the workers at the inn, who were living off of food-stamp rations, pooled their resources to get Hogan the tiny steak.
The next day, Hogan tasted victory at Carnoustie and returned to the inn to find the employees lined up outside holding American flags. Hogan shook every man’s hand and kissed every woman’s cheek before escaping to his room, he was so overcome with emotion.
There’s a sign on the first tee commemorating Hogan’s feat here.
“Anything other than winning would’ve been a failure (to Hogan),” Wright said.
“It’s a nice treat to be able to come to such an historical place.”