BOOK REVIEW

golf books Book Review: A Pleasant 'Secret' for Golf Enthusiasts

By Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer

In his book, Ben Hogan’s “Secret”, author Bob Thomas throws a soft, warm light on the life and psyche of golf’s greatest technician and competitor.

Thomas’s meticulous research and deep empathy for Hogan have allowed him to intertwine the more well-known events of the legend’s career with the fictionalized yet completely believable emotions, conversations, and, most importantly, secrets of one of golf’s most private and misunderstood men.

Throughout this moving book, the reader develops a true appreciation for the hurdles that Ben Hogan, the poor caddie from Texas, had to overcome to become Ben Hogan, the greatest professional golfer in history.

What is most striking is that the hurdles external to the man were—with the exception of the tragic car accident that nearly ended his life—nothing compared to those inside his own mind.

The man branded “Mr. Runner-Up”, “Texas Termite”, and “The Wee Ice Man” by members of the media, who were irked by Hogan’s disdain for empty quotes, had to learn to check his emotional vulnerability at the clubhouse in order to steel his nerves for the demands of each tournament.

So what was Hogan’s secret? A mechanical trick? A work ethic verging on pathological obsession? Fear of failure? His devoted wife, Valerie?

The probing and prodding of the relentless (and clueless) press failed to dig it out of him. And his instructional books only gave us half of the story. Even though Ben Hogan’s “Secret” is fiction, it’s fair to say that the insightful pen of this skilled novelist gives us as credible a version of the actual secret as we’ll likely ever have.

The dialogue rings so true, it is easier than not to believe that every word of this book actually took place.

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Although the prose may occasionally feel a touch mechanical—like Hogan’s practice routine, actually—with a few extra strokes of foreshadowing at the ends of some chapters (“It was because of the secret he shared with Bobby Jones.”; “…only the shadow of war could hold him back again.”), this book is a birdie read for golf enthusiasts everywhere.

Between its covers, they’ll find not only a compelling human-interest story, but more than a few reflections on the nature of the game they love and the lessons it holds for life off the course.

Ben Hogan’s “Secret”
by Bob Thomas, 189 pp.
Macmillan, $19.95
ISBN: 0028616626

Autographed copies available from the author for $13.00 at Hoganbook@aol.com.

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