YOUR UNCLE is Ben Hogan?" That question was my earliest indicator that there was something special about my Uncle Ben. I knew he was a golfer and that he was good, but when I was a kid, the awe in people's voices at the mention of his name was more than I could understand. I don't think I truly appreciated his accomplishments until last year when I took up golf, and I use the phrase loosely because after four months of lessons I still stink.
My grandmother Sarah Harriman was Valerie Hogan's sister, so the Hogans were my great-aunt and -uncle. I grew up far away from them, in Laguna Beach, Calif., but I remember many summer visits to Texas and dinners at their house. Uncle Ben would go to his closet, pull out a club and try to teach my brother and me how to hold and swing it. Sometimes he'd let us take a little swing indoors—much to the horror of my grandmother and aunt, who would cry, "Watch out for the chandelier!" Uncle Ben would have a gleam in his eye that told me he didn't care if we broke everything in the room. He was in his 60s by then, and he and Aunt Valerie didn't have any kids of their own. He simply wanted to pass on his love of the game. Too bad I can't remember any of those lessons now.
As I grew older and began to understand what he had achieved, I realized I wanted to brag a little that he was my uncle. I had the chance to go with him to Colonial Country Club once or twice to see his trophies and medals. It was the only time he ever talked about his accomplishments.
When my uncle died almost 11 years ago, many of his friends urged Aunt Valerie to start a foundation, but she felt that was too much of a challenge for her in her twilight years. I only learned after her death eight years ago that she wanted me to pick up where she had left off.
I hadn't a clue where to begin, so I started by simply keeping up with the photo and memorabilia requests that Aunt Valerie had handled. In the process I met a lot of great people who revered my uncle and wanted to help. Finally, in 2006, I had built up the resources and friendships that enabled me to get started. The Ben Hogan Foundation has since assembled a board of directors, hired an executive director and formulated a plan and purpose. We decided to give money to causes that my uncle would have supported, such as higher education, children's health care and programs to help military families.
The foundation received its 501(c)(3) certification a little less than a year ago. Since then we have donated funds to First Tee in Fort Worth and have partnered with Cook Children's Medical Center and Children's Medical Center of Dallas to support Camp Broncho in North Texas, a summer camp for children with acute asthma.
With the PGA Tour returning this week for the Colonial and the Ben Hogan Award dinner in Fort Worth on May 18, I've been thinking a lot about my uncle. I know he'd be happy to see that he's still so honored. I'm awed by what he achieved during his remarkable life and inspired by all that I hope we will achieve on his behalf through the foundation.
Now if I could find time to dig my own game out of the dirt.
For more information, go to benhoganfoundation.org.