The topic is Ben Hogan. Somewhere not long ago I saw once again the oft-repeated fable that it took "nine years" for Hogan to win on tour (sometimes it's "a decade"). Is that really true? Uh, not exactly. His first victory was in a four-ball tournament, which were regular events on the tour in the 1930s and 1940s, in 1938 paired with young Vic Gheezi. Hogan turned 26 that year and, for the first time, won enough money to stay on tour the entire season.

The previous year, 1937, he ran out of money after ten starts and had to come home, despite recording a 3rd place finish and 6 top tens! Purses in the early 1930s were less than paltry, and typically paid out to just the top ten to twenty finishers. Prior to 1937, he entered a few events, but never could have been said to be "on tour".

He didn't win anything in 1939, but was attracting notice for his work ethic and putting stroke (Sarazen called it the best on tour) and most observers felt it was only a matter of time before he broke through, which he did with a splash. In March of 1940, at the age of 27, he won three consecutive events. Johnny Revolta observed at the time: "You can't beat perfection". According to biographer James Dodson (page 141), for those 12 rounds Hogan 3-putted twice, missed two greens, broke 70 ten times and was 34 under par overall.

The tour's newest star ended the year with four wins, the Vardon Trophy and the leading money winner title. His first win, the North and South, was considered a major at the time. Hogan seemed to love that event: out of six starts, he won three times, and finished 3rd, 6th and 7th the other three times.

It is true that in January 1930, when he was 17 and a half, Hogan left school and "turned pro", but that just meant he went to work in a pro shop. He held a variety of jobs outside of golf, including dealing cards (which he was very good at, naturally) until he made it as a player in 1938.

In contrast, Nelson, six months older than Ben, recorded his first credited PGA tour win in 1935, the New Jersey State Open. In 1936, Byron won the Metropolitan Open, for his second title, and in 1937 won the Masters and the Belmont Country Club Match Play. Snead, about three months older than Hogan, won the West Virginia Closed Pro in 1936 as his first credited PGA Tour win, then had a big year in 1937, when he won five times. So, it is true Ben trailed these two into the winner's circle, but by a few years, not a decade.

After 1940, things just got better each year for Hogan, with the only hiccup or "speed-bump" being 1947. His record in the 1930s and 1940s is summarized below. Of note are the following:

In the 1940s, Hogan was eligible for the Vardon trophy five times: 1940, 1941, 1946, 1947 and 1948. He won every year except 1947, and claimed the unofficial title in 1942.

Hogan played just six full seasons in the 1940s: 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947 and 1948. He was leading money winner in five of those years, and placed third in 1947.

For those six full seasons, Hogan had the most wins for the year four times: 1942, 1946, 1947 and 1948.

In 1948, Hogan won six consecutive events, in 1946 he had two streaks of three wins and, as noted above, he won three in a row in 1940.

For the decade, Hogan finished in the top-3 60% of the time, was winner or runner-up 49% of the time, and won 30% of the time.

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Some more interesting data:

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