PORTLAND, OREGON | Here at Portland Golf Club, I feel honored, my footsteps carefully and slowly following the path blazed by Ben Hogan.
The intriguing new golf documentary Hogan made its debut in June on Golf Channel. Although Portland Golf Club was mentioned prominently, there was something missing — the overwhelming emotion, passion and popularity of the great man making his mark in Portland, far from his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 1945 at Portland GC, Hogan won the Portland Open with a 72-hole total of 261, which just happened to be 27-under par (65, 69, 63, 64). Commented Byron Nelson, who earlier that year had captured 11 consecutive tournaments, “From the looks of that score, I think he still has nine holes to play.”
In 1946, on the same course, Hogan dominated the PGA Championship. It was the first of his nine career major championships. In the match-play final, he defeated Ed “Porky” Oliver, 6 and 4. Brooks Koepka may have taken home $1,980,000 for winning the 2019 PGA Championship, but Hogan’s reward in 1946 was $3,500.
The next year, 1947, Hogan was appointed captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The matches, played at Portland GC, were won, 11-1, by the U.S. squad. Which American golfer lost his singles match? Not the 35-year-old Hogan, that’s for sure. It was Herman Keiser who was defeated, 4 and 3, by Sam King of the Great Britain and Ireland contingent.
For Hogan, it was a three-year golf rampage in Portland. No wonder he was rumored to be looking at residences near his favorite Portland golf course. That wouldn’t happen, of course, because Hogan was a Fort Worth boy all the way.
There is more to this story, and this is where I need to get very personal. At Portland Golf Club, a narrow walkway winds from the 18th green to the clubhouse. I wonder how many golfers have taken that path after completing their rounds without ever noticing the plaque that is secured significantly on a lovely, understated stone wall.
Reading from the plaque: “The Golf Writers Association of America, Inc., was founded on this site, August 25, 1946. At the conclusion of the 1946 PGA Championship golf writers throughout the United States met in an abandoned ice cream concession stand at this location and founded their first nationwide organization.”
And, yes, the Golf Writers Association of America is still with us. Golf, this wonderful game, is fully deserving of celebration and reflection.
The plaque includes the names of Ross Newland, Associated Press, founding president, and Charles Bartlett, Chicago Tribune, secretary-treasurer.
It was 23 years after the 1946 PGA Championship that the plaque was installed: “This plaque presented by Alcan Aluminum, Ltd., on the occasion of the Alcan Golfer of the Year at the Portland Golf Club, September 1969.”
Appropriately the plaque ends with a quote attributed to French writer and philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778), who penned a piece of wisdom that likely will remain with us for additional centuries and lifetimes. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
What I would give to organize a political gathering alongside this plaque. President Donald J. Trump would be there, along with many senators and representatives.
Writing and commentary are two of the pillars of our society. I love being a golf writer. It’s the only career I’ve known in my adult life. And, yes, the Golf Writers Association of America is still with us. Golf, this wonderful game, is fully deserving of celebration and reflection.
We are better off because of it.
Ben Hogan, who led the 1947 U.S. Ryder Cup team at Portland Golf Club, is shown teeing off in the 1951 U.S. Open. Photo: Courtesy, USGA Archives
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