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Can Tiger Woods follow in the script written by Ben Hogan in 1950?

This past week we heard from Tiger Woods! I am very happy, as is his family and golf fans that he is alive. The horrific car accident could have very easily taken his life. I realize that he has a long road of recovery ahead of him, especially in light of his first goal to “walk on his own” in the future.

I bring this up to wish Woods luck and to use my love of history to look back at another instance of recovery in the game we love. On February 2nd, 1949 another car accident took place, this one on a lonely Texas two lane road. This one was multi-vehicle, a Cadillac and a Greyhound Bus. The winner of the accident, as you can imagine was the bus, the loser of the accident was the Cadillac, and its occupants: Valerie and 3-Time Major Champion Ben Hogan. The bus hit the Hogan vehicle head on, driving the steering wheel into the seat and the engine block into the floorboard. Only Ben Hogan’s effort to shield his wife by laying in front of her across the front seat saved his life.

The Hogan rehab began pretty directly after the accident. Doctors tied off his vena cava to prevent blood clots and his physical therapy began. Walking in his living room, then his yard, then the block, then to putt and chip and progressed to practicing and playing. The rehab was a lifetime process but the comeback was complete when, just 16 months after the accident Hogan won the 1950 US Open. After the 1950 US Open, Hogan would go on to win six more majors before leaving the tour for good in the 1970’s.

He also founded a dominant equipment company and wrote the highest selling instructional book “The Five Fundamentals of the Modern Golf Swing.”

I say all of this so history is not forgotten, but to also say maybe Tiger can do something similar. Hogan’s accident was so bad that his obituary was distributed nationally and his fellow tour players were told he had passed away. Hogan was also told that he was not going to walk again. I reference this so we can be optimistic for Tiger as his post-accident outlook and reports are not nearly as dire as Hogan’s. I am optimistic and hopeful for Tiger, as we all are. I really hope that he can play again, but I am very hopeful he can meet his first goal of walking again.

The Hogan comeback story will never fade. A movie was made, “Follow The Sun” and interviews have been given. But in the words of Hogan himself, his believe and work ethic “were never going to fade” and that is what drove him to come all the way back and dominate golf for a long period of time. No one doubts Woods work ethic, passion or desire, I just hope he can recover in such a way that allows us to enjoy his golf, even just one more time.

Rich Conwell is the General Manager & PGA Head Golf Professional at Wheeling Country Club and can be reached with questions or comments at rconwell@wheelingcountryclub.com or 304-232-2000.

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