Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan played golf against each other as caddies at age 15. Nelson edged him out by one. Over the next decades they would battle each other countless times on the fledging professional tour. Nelson, like Bobby Jones before him, would retire just after reaching the pinnacle of his playing days. He would win 11 in a row in 1945 and follow that up with another 6 victories in 1946 and announce his retirement that same year.
Hogan would take much longer to taste similar success. He would try the professional tour two times and lose his money and never gain his confidence. He would marry and make a third and final attempt in 1938. His wife, Valerie, would talk him out quitting during that year. His first victory would still be two years away. Hogan tasted victory only after his friend, Byron, gave him a new driver. Hogans new club gave him the confidence he’d been missing off the tee. He would win almost immediately and never look back. Isn’t it funny how small, insignificant moments change our lives?
Nelson retired because his OPUS was to own a cattle ranch. He and his wife Louise had been saving up for over a decade so they could “cash” purchase their dream. In 1946 they would have finally accrued enough. Roughly $55,000 bought them their dream pad. A piece of land outside Forth Worth, Texas that was 600 acres strong. Lord Byron lived out his opus there. Golf had simply enabled it. Amazing.
Hogan would win 13 times in 1946 and go on to become known as one of the greatest golfer of all time. He would practice until his hands bled. He played golf because he knew no other way. I’ve not determined whether this was OPUS for him but it certainly was a way for him to live and work. He had been forced to realize that nobody was going to take care of him early in his life. You see, he walked in on his father at age 9 just in time to watch him shoot himself to death. Hogans demeanor and quiet persona might not have had as much to do with his MBTI as it did with his life experiences.
Byron Nelson left the game in 1946 at 34 years of age. He and Hogan were exactly the same age. Hogan had never beaten him straight up, and he never would. They would never play against each other in competition again. This is the backdrop to the match that changed the game forever. That year would be ten years later, but their games would look “no worse for the wear.” You’ll have to read the book, The Match, by Mark Frost if you want to hear the rest of the story. Your competitors are your collaborators, if you draw them nearer. Slow down and reflect. Compete and collaborate. Good…