Ben Hogan and Work Ethics

Work Ethics

The corollary issue of households being run by children, back-sliding educational standards and the acceptance of mediocrity at all levels, is the fact that far too many Americans have lost a sense of work ethics. There is a huge cadre of people who not only do not take pride in what they do, but also passionately hate what they do for a living.

While simultaneously complaining about their careers, many of them will not invest the time or effort it might take to do something to improve their plights, such as going to night school, or simply quitting the job that makes them so miserable to go out and find something else they might really enjoy.

Many students, having already been spoiled at home, come out of college or graduate schools expecting immediate placement into executive positions with unrealistic starting salaries because they honestly believe that their degree counts for more on their resumes than possibly having had actual hands on experience.

Nobody wants to start at the bottom. Nobody wants to be the “Pencil Sharpener” or the “Mailroom Clerk” and even if they are, they want to be called something that makes their job sound more important than it really is, such as “Literary Assistant” or “Communications Coordinator.”

Some workers no longer want to put in extra time or effort on their jobs even if they are paid overtime; while simultaneously bitching about the opportunity to make some extra money. Nobody wants to go the extra mile, minimalism runs rampant, and so-called customer service is either non-existent, sloppy, excessively time consuming or totally inadequate.

At least when I worked summer jobs I realized two things. First, that I didn’t want to do any of them for a lifetime career and secondly that no matter what one does, one should always attempt to do the job at his absolute best. This generates personal pride, an intangible that can make people feel good about themselves, which seems to be just another thing that has gone by the wayside in America.

Today’s work mantra is often: Just let me put in my time, hand me my paycheck, don’t forget my benefits and now I’m one day closer to my retirement.

Ben Hogan is one of my work ethic inspirational heroes, as well as a sport’s icon with a true heart and spirit, and also a person who did not let success go to his head or throw it all away on alcohol or dope. He was a self-taught grinder who decided that golf was his passion in life, proving it by once saying something to the effect that the only reason he knew how to correctly hit a golf ball was because he had tried and failed at every conceivable incorrect way.

An example of his dedication occurred when he was once witnessed going into a practice bunker and coming out of it eight hours later with his hands bleeding. The only thing he worked on that day was bunker shots. He also used a corollary argument in reference to people making excuses about their mediocre skill levels by stating that there is always enough sunlight in each day to practice every shot one needs to have in his bag, that practice makes perfect and that for every day one misses playing or practicing is one day longer it will take to become any good.

He was very intensely self-focused, tuned out his playing environment, and only played within himself. This was epitomized when playing a round with someone who made a hole-in-one on a par three before he had teed off, didn’t say one word congratulatory or otherwise, stiffed his own shot, putted in for a two, walked off the green, turned to his caddy and said:

  • Great. That’s the first time I ever birdied the hole.

He was also acerbically heartless to the point that when as an elder statesman of the game, when seen sitting outside the clubhouse at a U.S. Open practice round, one of the up and coming pros approached him. After lauding Hogan as having been one of his childhood idols, the relative neophyte asked him if he would be so kind as to share with him the secret to winning a golf major tournament.

Hogan looked up and dryly quipped:

  • It’s simple. Make fewer shots than anyone else.

In reference to playing one’s own game, he advised staying within oneself while tuning out the rest of the field:

  • In any golf major, don’t ever forget that sometimes making par is good enough to win.

Hogan was often criticized for being standoffish, a bit grumpy and also a man of few words. But there were other good reasons to account for that; he was in chromic intense physical pain. Eschewing interviews with the press, he kept his ego to himself and not like Tiger Woods who always seems to be in front of the camera analyzing his rounds even when he loses, misses a cut or comes in third.

A reporter once approached Jimmie Demaret, who was frequently paired with Hogan in tournaments. He asked Demeret if it was true that Hogan hardly ever spoke, swore, complained or even gloated. Demaret said:

  • No, not at all. In fact, he usually spoke to me every time we walked up to a green.
  • Really? That often?
  • Yes, he would turn his head a bit sideways and say: “I think you’re away Jimmie.”

But perhaps his greatest example of inspirational achievement came after nearly dying in a car accident in 1948. Because of multiple fractures, including his pelvis and his legs, then being told he would never be able to walk again he went on after that to win 12 PGA events including 6 Majors. Golf pros on tour are not allowed to use carts, and after his recovery Hogan could sometimes be seen hobbling as he navigated the courses.

In fact, if he had not selflessly thrown himself over the front seat across his wife in order to protect her from the direct collision with the bus that hit them head-on, he might have been crushed to death by the steering wheel. 

There are many stories of courage, self-sacrifice, dedication, hard work and overcoming handicap barriers in this country.

Unfortunately, instead of being an everyday thing, in today’s news we only hear about them every now and then; in fewer and extremely rare circumstances.

At present, it seems the more dysfunctional one might be, the more likely he or she will get a book deal, a movie, or a reality television series.



New York City ticker tape parade for Hogan after he won the British Open



Ben Hogan Photo from Wikipedia


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