Teacher’s Comments: A solid tale of one of the classic moments in golf history. A good read leading up to the 2013 US Open.
There is perhaps no more mythic moment in golf history than Ben Hogan’s comeback victory at the 1950 US Open. Still suffering the effects of his near fatal car accident (and the just as deadly blood clots in the legs), Hogan staggered his way through ninety holes , managing to hold off the likes of Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, and Lloyd Mangrum.
In Miracle at Merion, David Barrett chronicles the event that legendary sports writer Red Smith called “the most remarkable feat in the history of sports.”
Following Hogan’s February 1949 auto accident, many thought that he would never play again. But with his indomitable will, the Hawk overcame the broken bones and—more seriously—the blood clots in the leg which required tying off his inferior vena cava. The reduced blood flow to his legs meant that he would always walk with pain. By January 1950, however, Hogan had come back sufficiently to nearly win the Los Angeles Open. Five months later, he would enter golf’s toughest test—the US Open.
An account of the actual tournament (and the subsequent playoff) occupies less than half the volume. The rest is background: the Hogan accident; the state of the PGA Tour and the USGA at the time; vignettes on and brief biographies of other competitors. It’s all quite fascinating stuff, and Barrett has obviously done his homework.
Miracle at Merion actually is the kind of history book that I most enjoy: it takes a single event—in this case the 1950 US Open—and uses that to illuminate an entire period. I came away from this book with a wistful longing for the barnstorming golf tours of old. And if possible, I developed an even greater admiration for the accomplishments of Ben Hogan.
David Barrett is a solid, if not flashy writer. I thought the story bogged down a bit at times, particularly in the account of the actual tournament rounds, but as that’s at the books’ core, there’s no shirking the details. Overall, it was an enjoyable and educational read.