Story behind photo of Hogan's 1-iron shot at Merion

By Joe PosnanskiJune 10, 2013, 6:57 pm

There is something about the most famous golf photograph ever taken that you probably do not know and certainly will not believe. I have told it to several people now, and each one immediately said, “Come on, that’s not true.” But it apparently is true or, if nothing else, the hero of our story claimed it was true.

The photograph is … well, if you are a committed golfer you can probably just look up right now (in your office, in your house, at your favorite sports themed restaurant, at your golf club) and see that picture on the wall. And if it’s nowhere nearby, you can probably just close your eyes and see it. The photograph is of Ben Hogan, looking down the fairway of the 18th hole at Merion, standing in perfect balance after hitting the 1-iron shot for the ages.

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Everything about the photograph – and the moment – seems miraculous. Just start with the most basic of facts: Hogan was hitting a 1-iron, which is all but impossible to do. Lee Trevino was once struck by lightning and was asked how to avoid such a fate. He said, “Stand in the middle of the fairway and hold up a 1-iron. Even God can’t hit a 1-iron.”

But more, much more, Hogan himself was miraculous. This was the U.S. Open, 1950, and it was his first tournament back after his car crashed head first into a bus, a crash that, by all logic, should have killed him. It almost certainly would have killed him but it seems just before impact Hogan leaned over to protect his wife, Valerie, and this move not only saved her life, but his own. He fractured his collarbone, pelvis, ankle and rib, and doctors proclaimed his golf career over. Sixteen months later, Hogan was at Merion for the U.S. Open.

In those days, the U.S. Open demanded that golfers play 36 holes on the usually scorching final day, a physical toll under the best of circumstances. The effort almost broke Hogan. David Barrett, author of the engrossing “Miracle at Merion,” points out that on the 12th hole Hogan almost fell down, and he could barely walk after that. Hogan himself would admit almost quitting after the 13th hole; his caddie pressed him to go on. A competitor, Cary Middlecoff, actually marked Hogan’s balls on the greens because Hogan was in such agony.

Still, he played brilliantly. How was it possible? That was Hogan. There was something otherworldly about him, how purely he hit his shots, how dedicated he was to practice, how distant he was from competitors. He was something of a golf ascetic. He claimed to have learned the secret. The legend is he did not carry a 7-iron at Merion, and when asked why he said: “Because there are no 7-iron shots at Merion.”

When Hogan came to the difficult 18th hole (then 458 yards … this year, it will be 521 yards so that golfers, even with better equipment, will have to replicate Hogan’s grueling second shot), he needed a par to force a playoff. Hogan hit a drive to the middle of the fairway, and then pulled out his 1-iron.* The fairway, as you see in the photograph, was lined with people, though there were no ropes keeping them in place. An American flag is in the distance.

*Hogan would write in his book that he hit a 2-iron, but he had said at the time that it was a 1-iron, and he later admitted that his book was mistaken. 

The photograph, taken from behind Hogan, captured him at the end of his follow through, poised as if posing, in perfect form, facing the green, left foot planted deep into the grass, right heel up, his 1-iron almost perfectly parallel to the ground. His ball hit the green and held, Hogan two-putted to force a playoff, and the next day won the U.S. Open. It was so incredible that only a year later Hollywood would make a movie about it – “Follow the Sun” with Glenn Ford playing Hogan, and Anne Baxter as his wife Valerie.

The 1-iron club itself would be stolen, as if the story needed any more color, and would not resurface for more than 30 years. How it resurfaced is an amazing story in itself: In 1983, an old man who never gave his named showed up at The Players Championship with what he said was a bag of eight old irons and four woods. He sold the bag to a golf club dealer named Bobby Farino for $150, and did not even mention that there were actually nine irons in there – there was a 1-iron in there, and it had a tiny but clear wear mark on the face, in precisely the spot where only a true master could hit a 1-iron.

Farino immediately guessed this was Hogan’s 1-iron. Doug McGrath, who was vice president of sales at the Ben Hogan company, was there when the club was presented to Ben Hogan.

“Mr. Hogan examined it from the playing position, from face, back and toe,” McGrath wrote in an email to Golf Channel’s Alan Tays, at the time a golf writer for the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “and said: ‘It’s good to see my old friend back.’”

As amazing as all of this is … the most amazing story of them all might be the one about the photograph.

Hy Peskin grew up in Brooklyn, during the Depression, which meant that he was always looking for another angle. He was just a teenager when his father, a Russian immigrant, lost his job as a tailor. Hy was selling newspapers then, and making a decent living at it. He promptly got his whole family selling newspapers.

“I saved my family with the newspaper selling,” he would tell John Thorn, who was to co-author a book about Peskin’s life that was never published.

“Remember that old Reader’s Digest feature, ‘My Most Unforgettable Character,’?” says Thorn, who is now the official historian of Major League Baseball. “For me, Hy was that person, a dynamo, a force of nature, a man of such intensity even in his late 80s that you can see why he alienated so many people, in his personal and professional lives.”

Yes, well, Peskin was a tough character. He was always angling for something, pushing for something, hustling for something. He went from selling newspapers to working for the New York Daily Mirror as a sportswriter. There, he got into a fight with the sports editor Dan Parker (another classic character; Damon Runyon called him “the most consistently brilliant of all sportswriters”). That forced his move into the Daily Mirror photo department where he took a few photos, but mostly developed the photos of others and wrote their cutlines.

The story of how Hy Peskin became a full-fledged photographer is typical of his outsized personality and extraordinary talent. After returning from World War II, he bought one box of color film (all he could afford) and went to St. Nicholas Arena on West 66th Street for a boxing match between a once-great fighter named Lou Nova (who had once fought Joe Louis) and someone called Gunnar Barlund. Peskin would tell Thorn that he was so nervous about running out of film that he took only three photographs the entire fight. All three, though, turned out perfectly – “three of the greatest pictures of my life.” He rushed over to the offices of Look Magazine, and the editor there immediately bought the pictures. Hy Peskin was a photographer.

He was no ordinary photographer. He was a genius. Many consider Neil Leifer the greatest sports photographer ever – Leifer took the famous photograph of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston among countless others – and Leifer has said repeatedly that Peskin is the greatest ever. Peskin shot hundreds of sports covers for various magazines. He famously shot Joe DiMaggio smiling (something photographers almost never could capture) and Willie Mays in full follow through. It was Peskin’s deep and rich black and white photo of Ted Williams that Sports Illustrated used for the cover of its tribute issue when he died.

It wasn’t just sports. Peskin also took the iconic Life Magazine photo of John Kennedy and his then fiancée Jaqueline Bouvier on a sailboat – a photo that many think made Kennedy a national figure for the first time. That was a doubly amazing achievement because Peskin could not swim and was deathly afraid of the water.

What made Peskin different was his insistence on doing things his own way. When others shot from the press box, he went to the field. When others went to the field, he went to the other side. Nothing could keep him from the photograph he wanted. His most famous photographing exploit – other than Hogan, of course – was probably shooting three action photos on the same baseball play. He shot the batter in full swing then ran madly to third to get a photo of the runner sliding there. When the ball got away from the third baseman, he ran home and captured a shot of the play at the plate. He was so inescapable, that the legendary sports columnist Jim Murray would write about seeing Peskin run around in search of the indelible photograph. “I think Hy’s 72-yard dash across the infield under full equipment was the finest I have ever seen,” Murray wrote.

“Anticipation,” Peskin told Thorn when talking about what separated him. “Anticipation is the key word in the coverage of all sports. For example, one day I was shooting for Life Magazine a game, maybe at Detroit, and I shot as usual when nobody was on base from the first-base side of the batter as he hit. Close by. Oftentimes, I really endangered my life by edging closer to the baseline to shoot him when it is very possible for a batter to lash one out right at your nose. But I did it often. “

Peskin quit in his prime or was retired, it’s hard to say which. He was sent to the first Ali-Liston bout – Leifer’s famous photo was from Ali-Liston II – and his camera lights malfunctioned. He had not checked the lights before the fight. All of his photos were dark and unusable. Peskin would say that Sports Illustrated essentially cut him off then. It’s not hard to imagine: Peskin at his best could be a hard man to deal with. He went on his own as a promoter – he and Ted Williams tried to start the World Series of Sports Fishing, which was too far ahead of its time. He said that he almost went broke.

And then, strangely, he changed his name to Brian Blaine Reynolds – taking the middle names of his three sons – and he started something he called the “American Academy of Achievement.” The idea was to match up some of the most accomplished people in the world with some of the most talented and promising young people. It was a brilliant idea, and it remains one – the Academy of Achievement is a hugely successful nonprofit where legends from Ronald Reagan to Steve Jobs to Maya Angelou to Steven Spielberg have talked with gifted student delegates (these have included singer Taylor Swift, running back Herschel Walker and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who co-founded Google).

But the Academy doesn’t publicize its connection to Hy Peskin or Brian Blaine Reynolds. In fact, you can scour the Website and not find a single mention of his name. In the later years of Peskin’s life, he and his sons had a fierce legal battle over the Academy (a battle Peskin won). He did not have many friends in those later years. Peskin was erratic. For instance, he refused to get dressed; he would go out wearing pajamas and slippers. He would tell Thorn that his own family was trying to make him out as crazy ”just because of the pajama thing.”

Photos: Ben Hogan through the years

Hy Peskin/Brian Blaine Reynolds died in 2005, in Israel, where he had moved. There were a few nice obituaries written about him, mostly by fellow photographers who marveled at his brilliance. And, of course, his most famous photo, the photo of Ben Hogan and his 1-iron, was republished in various newspapers across the country.

Peskin had never said much about that photograph – in truth, he rarely talked about his work. He preferred to let the images speak. He would not even remember exactly what kind of camera he used (“most probably a Speed Graphic,” he said). He, of course, understood the magnitude of what Hogan did that day at Merion. Everyone understood. But, in the moment, he only knew there was something he wanted to capture that he could not quite grasp. “Hogan was a mystery to me,” he told Thorn. “But I didn’t think about it. He was distant. You shot pictures of him, he was (in the) distance. Sammy Snead – friendly. Ben Hogan – distant.”

When it was time for the 18th hole, most of the other photographers went in front of Hogan to shoot his face. That was the obvious play. Peskin thought different. He thought that the brilliance of the moment – the brilliance of Ben Hogan at his apex – could not be seen in his face. “Ben Hogan – distant.” Peskin walked in the fairway behind Hogan. They don’t let photographers stand back there now; we’ll never get another photograph quite like that one. Peskin saw the scene as he stood back there. And he knew. This was it. This was everything. And he took the photograph that would be on the wall of a million golfers for a half-century to come.

So what is that unbelievable detail that was promised at the beginning of the story? Well here goes: Hy Peskin would say he followed Ben Hogan around for 17 holes and … did not take a single picture. Not one. None of it struck him. He just followed Hogan around and studied him and waited for the inspiration. He said the picture at the 18th hole, the most famous golf photograph ever taken, was the only image he took the entire day.

Of course, that cannot be true. Can it?

“I had in my mind what I was after,” Peskin said. Then he added simply: “And I was able to click in the right moment.”

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Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
Texas USC Stanford Furman
Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)
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Leach on grizzlies, walk-up music and hating golf

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:47 pm

He's one of college football's deepest thinkers, and he has no time to waste on a golf course.

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach created headlines last week when he shared his view that golf is "boring" and should be reserved for those who, unlike him, need practice swearing. The author and coach joined host Will Gray on the latest episode of the Golf Channel podcast to expand on those views - and veer into some unexpected territory.

Leach shared how his father and brother both got bitten by the golf bug as he grew up, but he steered clear in part because the sport boasts an overly thick rule book:

"First of all, the other thing I don't like is it's pretentious. There's a lot of rules. Don't do it this way, don't do it that way. You walked between my ball and the hole. This guy has to go first, then you go after he does. I mean, all these rules, I just don't understand."

Leach also shared his perspective about what fuels the vibrant fashion choices seen on many courses:

"You can tell there's a subtle, internal rebellion going on with golf, and where that subtle, internal rebellion manifests itself is they really liven up the clothes. I mean, they're beaten down by all the little subtle rules, so they really liven up the clothes. Maybe have knickers, maybe they'll have a floppy hat or something like that."

Leach on the advice he would sometimes offer when friends explained their rationale for hitting the links: 

"They say, 'Well I don't go there to golf or go to take it seriously. When I go golf, I just like to have some beers.' And I'm thinking, 'You know there's bars for that? There's bars for that, and at those bars they have, often times, attractive women and music going on?'"

Leach is heading into his seventh season at Washington State, and he also described a unique hazard that can sometimes pop up at the on-campus course in Pullman, Wash.:

"In the spring the grizzlies come out, and the grizzly preserve is right across the street from the golf course. So they’ll be out, you’ll see them running around on the hills inside the preserve there. But there is this visual where, all of a sudden you drive up this hill on your golf cart, and you’re at the tee box and you’re getting ready to hit, and on the hill just opposite of you it’s covered with grizzly bears. And as you’re getting ready to hit your ball, it occurs to you that the grizzly bears are going to beat you to your ball."

Other topics in the wide-ranging discussion included Leach's proposal for a 64-team playoff in NCAA Division I football, his chance encounter with Tiger Woods before a game between the Cougars and Woods' Stanford Cardinal, his preferred walk-up music and plans for "full contact golf."

Listen to the entire podcast below:

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Post-Masters blitz 'exhausting' but Reed ready for return

By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 8:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – After briefly suffering from First-Time Major Winner Fatigue, Patrick Reed is eager to get back inside the ropes this week at the Zurich Classic.

The media blitz is an eye-opening experience for every new major champ. Reed had been told to expect not to get any sleep for about a week after his win, and sure enough he jetted off to New York City for some sightseeing, photo shoots, baseball games, late-night talk shows, phone calls and basketball games, sitting courtside in the green jacket at Madison Square Garden next to comedian Chris Rock, personality Michael Strahan and rapper 2 Chainz. Then he returned home to Houston, where the members at Carlton Woods hosted a reception in his honor.

With Reed’s head still spinning, his wife, Justine, spent the better part of the past two weeks responding to each of the 880 emails she received from fans and well-wishers.

“It’s been a lot more exhausting than I thought it’d be,” he said Wednesday at TPC Louisiana, where he’ll make his first start since the Masters.

It’s a good problem to have, of course.

Reed was already planning a family vacation to the Bahamas the week after Augusta, so the media tour just took its place. As many directions as he was pulled, as little sleep as he got, Reed said, “We still had a blast with it.”

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There are few places better to ease into his new world than at the Zurich, where he’ll partner with Patrick Cantlay for the second year in a row.

Reed wants to play well, not only for himself but also his teammate. After all, it could be an important week for Cantlay, who is on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s radar after a victory last fall. That didn’t earn him any Ryder Cup points, however – he sits 38th in the standings – so performing well here in fourballs and foursomes could go a long way toward impressing the captain.

“There’s maybe a little extra if we play well,” Cantlay said, “but I’m just trying to play well every week.” 

Reed got back to work on his game last Tuesday. He said that he’s prepared, ready to play and looking forward to building off his breakthrough major.

“A lot of guys have told me to just be careful with your time,” he said. “There will be a lot of things you didn’t have to do or didn’t have in the past that are going to come up.

“But first things first, you’ve got to go out and grind and play some good golf and focus on golf, because the time you stay and not focus on golf will be the time you go backward. That’s nothing any of us want. We all want to improve and get better.”

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Success and failure more than wins and losses

By Rex HoggardApril 25, 2018, 7:04 pm

It was a vulnerable moment for James Hahn that was driven by emotion and unflinching self-examination.

Hahn had just dropped a tough decision to Patton Kizzire, losing on the sixth extra hole at January’s Sony Open, so the feelings were raw and his mind was still digesting the missed opportunity.

“I feel like losing sticks with me longer than winning,” he allowed.

Put another way, Hahn, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, acknowledged that he hates losing more than he likes winning, which is all at once understanding for an elite athlete and curious coming from a professional golfer.

Tiger Woods has played 334 Tour events in his career and won 79 times. That’s a 24-percent winning clip, which would get you sent to the minor leagues in professional baseball but is the benchmark for greatness in golf.

Perhaps Jack Nicklaus is an even more apropos example, considering that the Golden Bear played 164 majors in his career and won 18, more than any other player. Even if you edit that scorecard to only count Nicklaus’ Grand Slam starts during his prime, let’s say through the 1986 season when he won his last major, that’s a .166 batting average.

“When it comes to golf it’s tough to have that mentality, because you lose a lot more than you win. Even Tiger in his hay day was losing a lot more than he was winning,” Wesley Bryan said. “I definitely hate losing, but there’s a caveat: I hate losing to my brother more than I like winning.”

But the statistical reality of golf doesn’t discount Hahn’s take, it simply suggests there’s a more nuanced way of defining how the win/loss column impacts Tour types.

In the case of Nicklaus, it’s not just those 18 majors that assures his spot as one of the greatest; it’s also his 19 runner-up finishes in Grand Slam starts that pads his resume. Although Nicklaus is often reluctant to revisit those near misses, and there are a few of those also-rans for which he’d passionately embrace a cosmic mulligan, there’s something to be said for simply having the opportunity.

“I hate losing, losing stinks, but at least if you put yourself there it’s better than if you didn’t put yourself there,” explained Billy Horschel, a four-time winner on Tour. “We lose a lot, we lose more than any other professional athlete. Do you get accustomed to losing? Yeah maybe, but you hate not having the chance to at least win.”

Horschel isn’t making excuses or giving himself psychological cover, he’s simply being realistic. Even the best seasons, like Justin Thomas’ five-victory outing in 2017 that included a major triumph (PGA Championship) and Tour Player of the Year honors, features what in any other sport would be considered a losing record (he played 25 events).

Even Woods, who for much of his career adhered to a strict “second sucks” mindset, has found some solace in moral victories following multiple injuries and medical setbacks in recent years.

“We’re all so competitive out here and when you’re going head-to-head like that you’re wanting to win so bad,” Harris English said. “Losing sucks, but with golf you lose a whole lot more than you win. You’ve got to be a pretty good loser.”

Success in golf is relative and requires a subtle scale to measure progress. For many, a top-10 finish is all the validation they need to push forward, while for others, like Horschel, progress is measured by winning opportunities.

The joy of victory and pain of defeat is evident each Sunday on Tour, the emotions often etched into a player’s face with equal clarity. But for many, simply making or missing the cut can produce just as much emotion.

“If you miss a cut you don’t have a chance to win, that’s the worst feeling in the world,” Horschel said. “I could lose in a playoff, like to Jason Day [at the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson, which Horschel won], that would’ve sucked, but I don’t think it would have sucked as much as me missing the cut. I hate not having a chance.”

The fine line between victory and defeat can also be defined on a much more personal level for some. In other sports, you are what your record says you are, but in golf you can be what the opportunity provided. Although it’s a fine line with infinite shades of success and failure, there is a notion in golf that sometimes you lose an event and sometimes you’re beaten.

It was a distinction that Hahn at the Sony Open had little interest in, but with time can allow a player to make an à la carte assessment that’s emotionally detached from what the box score may say.

“It’s all about you giving it your all,” English said. “If you did everything you could, if you hit the shots you wanted to, if you hit the putts you wanted to, under that situation that’s all you can do. If someone outplays you, so be it.”

Hahn’s point is no less valid, even the game’s greatest contend you learn more from defeat than you do victory, and it’s competitive nature to, as he explained, hate losing more than you like winning. But in professional golf defining what’s a win and what’s a loss, is very much a sliding scale.