Chicago’s very own Hale American Open: Hogan’s First Major?

Hogan Signing Autographs at the Hale American Open

The Hale American National Open Golf Tournament was a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour that played for a single year, 1942.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, the United States Golf Association’s Executive Committee decided that it would be improper to play the 1942 U.S. Open.  Additionally, the original site chosen for the event, Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota, opted not to serve as the host course. The USGA together with the PGA of America and the Chicago District Golf Association sponsored the Hale America Open in order to help raise money.  It was intended to be a war-time substitute for the U.S. Open.

The event was held at Chicago’s Ridgemoor Country Club from June 18–21, 1942.  Ridgemoor was picked for its easy access by train, as well as its conveniently placed fences to discourage gate crashers.   The proceeds raised by the event benefited the Navy Relief Society and the USO.

The tournament was won by Ben Hogan with a total score of 17-under-par 271, three strokes better than runners-up Jimmy Demaret and Mike Turnesa. Hogan received a gold metal (that was originally made for the 1942 National Open but stamped Hale American Open) and $1,200 in War Bonds for his win. Chicago Tribune Reporters claimed that Hogan (after being the leading money winner for three years) had finally scored a major.  Low and behold though the USGA would not agree with such accolades.

The Controversy:
The tournament was won by Ben Hogan with a total score of 17-under-par 271, three strokes better than runner-up Jimmy Demaret.[1] Hogan received a gold medal and $1,200 in War Bonds for his win.  Supporters of Ben Hogan and some golf historians maintain that this tournament should count as one of Hogan’s major championships, since it was run just like the U.S. Open with more than 1,500 entries, local qualifying at 69 sites and sectional qualifying at most major cities. Additionally, all of the big names in golf who were not fighting the war were in the field.  The medal given out to Hogan was the exact medal that would have been given to the US Open champion had it not been cancelled.  So why not a US Open victory?

Ben Hogan surged to the top of the leader board with a 10-under-par 62 in the second round. The Texan shot 69 in the third round and closed with a 68 in the final round, for a total of 17-under-par 271, three shots clear of runner-up Jimmy Demaret.  I believe that this is the major reason no one has ever changed the history books (yes we would literally have to change history and loads of records because of this one little tournament in Chicago).  The Hale American Open was the US Open in everything but name, and the golf course conditions.  The rough was not US Open rough, and the greens were not US Open greens.

If Hogan was declared the US Open victor of 142 we would have a new 72 hole scoring record, a new low round of any major championship, and a mighty big astrix next to his name on the Trophy (oh yeah we would have to add his name again to the US Open trophy).

I think Ben Hogan changed the game of golf, I belive he is one of the best this game has ever produced, but if the USGA canceled the US Open, and then we Chicagoians just claimed the same week as our own, changed the name and then years later want to credit Mr. Hogan with a US Open victory… Well that just seems like normal Chicago Politics to me, and that is why I love this city so much.


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