by Edwin DeBell
The Colonial National Invitational has always been played at the Colonial Country Club. That might sound as though it should go without saying, but considering that the tournament started over fifty years ago, that many tournaments have changed locations, and that some others have even changed their names , The Colonial is the longest running event on the PGA tour.
The Colonial is played at Ft. Worth, Texas - there and only there - and the winner of the inaugural tournament in 1946 was also from there - and only there: Ben Hogan. He has won the tournament six times altogether - more than any other golfer - and the last time he did so the number 46 showed up again, this time his age. The element of consistency is very significant at The Colonial.
And if the golfer playing in The Colonial is a consistent fader, he will probably win the tournament.. Hogan was a fader, and so were Trevino and Lietzke, and they have both won there twice. That's being consistent.
No less than nine of the fourteen par fours and par fives at The Colonial encourage a fade from the tee. So if you can develop your fade and want to try it out at Colonial, it will cost you $75. on weekdays, and $100. on weekends, if you can find a member to go around with you. The member's yardage is 6486, and the professional's is 7010, while the course ratings are 70.9 and 73.7 respectively. And if you play in the pro-am, the format is the best ball of the team.
Concerning the fade, or the left to right shot, it is not considered a difficult one to learn. The "controlled fade" - as it is called - imparts a clockwise motion to the ball. To facilitate this, the golfer should adopt an open stance, with feet, hips and shoulders aligned to the left of the intended line of flight, while the clubface is aligned directly at the target. Then the player merely cuts across the ball to impart the necessary drift.
The Colonial Country Club was designed by John Bredemus in 1935, not long after the era of hickory shafts, and has been redesigned at least four times since then to keep pace with the development of the game. Perry Maxwell, Dick Wilson, Trent Jones, and Jay Morrish have been instrumental in the transitions, but it remains a course with long, narrow par fours and small, bunkered putting greens. The first nine is considered the most difficult of the two; holes three through five are referred to as "The Horrible Horseshoe". Colonial has been called ".......the hardest par seventy in the world", and is strictly a course for shotmakers. The prestige of winning here is very high. It is one of the few invitational tournaments on the tour, and each year the former champions get together and invite two promising newcomers to the event who have never played here before.
This is a tournament with tradition, a tradition that began in 1946 when Hogan came from six shots behind for a one stroke victory, and it has been rich in tradition ever since. Close to the first tee is the Wall of Champions, a memorial which holds a plaque for each one of the winners since 1946, plus a momento to Craig Wood, who won the United States Open here in 1941. But probably the biggest tradition of them all is the trophy room dedicated to the achievements of Hogan himself. It contains most of his awards, prizes, and momentos from his competitive years - and what aory these competitive years were!
William "Ben" Hogan grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, amid very humble beginnings. He had to start earning his own spending money at a very early age. One of his after school and weekend jobs was that of a caddie. He was able to play golf himself on Caddie's Day (which is usually on Mondays), and thus he grew up with the game. He recalls that when he was sent by his mother to the grocery store he would pitch a ball from front lawn to front lawn along the way to the market. That's one of the ways he developed his short game. This writer vividly remembers when Hogan gave an exhibition at the San Jose Country Club in 1948 and demonstrated how he could actually put a fade or a hook on a pitching wedge. The writer also followed him around the Olympic Club in San Francisco during the U.S. Open in 1955 and was amazed at how much backspin he could put on his iron shots. But he developed these techniques from hours of solitary practice. When he first went on the tour, he was a long time winning, and so he spent a lot of time practicing and developing his game. He almost quit the tour in the early forties, but he held on tenaciously, - as was his custom always - and eventually won the North-South Open in 1940. Surprisingly, he was also the leading money winner that year. And, the year 1946 shows up again with his victory in the Texas Open.
Thereafter, Hogan played well throughout the remainder of his career, winning all four of the major championships in addition to what some consider five U.S. Opens if one acknowledges the Hale American Open in 1942: the medals for all of these opens look the same! No one else has won the U.S. Open more than four times. But, Hogan's initial victory in the inaugural Colonial deserves a place of its own among his medals and awards in the trophy room. It started a tradition which has lasted for fifty years and which we hope will always remain.
The tradition continues this year at Ft. Worth from May 22 to May 25.