A little piece of Masters history has emerged that serves as a reminder that no one player, no matter how great their skill or big their transgression, is greater than the collective history of the sport.
A moving tribute to Ben Hogan, delivered to the legendary golfer on the eve of the 1949 Masters soon after his near-fatal automobile accident, in the form of an autographed photo signed by 97 golfers, including 10 of the first 11 Masters champions, as well as writers, employees and masters Chairman Clifford Roberts, presented as part of Heritage Auctions April 23 Signature Sports Memorabilia auction.
Two months prior to the start of the 1949 Masters, Hogan was involved in a devastating head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-veiled bridge near Van Horn, Texas. His pelvis, collarbone and ankle were shattered, internal bleeding formed life-threatening clots and damage to his left eye shrouded his vision. Doctors were uncertain if Hogan would ever walk again; none, however, doubted that his golf career had been ended.
“This signed photograph was a ‘get well card’ from the entire professional golf community,” Heritage Auction Director Chris Ivy said, “with an inscription that begins, ‘To Our Friend Ben Hogan, on the eve of the 1949 Masters Tournament we send you heartfelt good wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.’”
Highlights of some of the 97 autographs on the card include some of the most iconic names in the sport’s history, with Bobby Jones, Horton Smith, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Claude Harmon and Sam Snead among the signers the most important signers.
The signed photo was consigned by Douglas McGrath, an employee of Hogan’s. The great golfer gifted the signed photo to McGrath during his time of employment, and it has remained in McGrath’s private collection ever since. This marks the first time that this amazing piece will be offered to the public.
“Clearly this photo was treasured by Hogan, and served as partial inspiration for his miraculous recovery and return to greatness on the links,” said Ivy. “Perhaps more importantly, today it serves as an inspiring reminder of what makes The Masters, and the game of golf, one of the most important and timeless of all sporting events.”