Wednesday, February 3

The Los Angeles Open and ‘Little Hogan’

THE NORTHERN TRUST OPEN was formerly the Los Angeles Open, and has been played on a variety of golf courses in the L.A. area during its 84-year history. Back in the Hogan-Snead-Nelson era, Los Angeles was the first stop on the winter tour. The pros arrived in early January to play for one of the better purses on the circuit, around $15,000 to $20,000.

(Photo: Do you know this Purdue star?)

Riviera Country Club, of course, is the tournament’s current home, as it was from 1945 to 1953. Riviera was where Ben Hogan won three times in 17 months: the 1947 and 1948 Los Angeles Opens and 1948 U.S. Open. That’s when Riviera became known as Hogan’s Alley. Hogan also won in 1942 at Hillcrest Country Club.

Some players held Hogan in such high esteem that they copied him. Gardner Dickinson was one such player. He patterned his swing after Hogan, dressed like him, and even dangled a cigarette from his lips in the same manner as his idol. He also named one of his sons Ben.

Another Hogan imitator was a player named Fred Wampler, a Purdue University grad and NCAA champion who turned pro in 1950. At 5’8” and 150 lbs., Wampler was the same size as Bantam Ben and became known as “Little Hogan” because he modeled his game after the Texas legend.

I was reminded of Wampler recently while listening to an interview I conducted with Larry Tomasino, a Michigan club pro who played the winter circuit in the 1950s.

“Have you heard of Freddie Wampler?” Tomasino asked. “He copied his [Hogan’s] swing. Everybody did really, to tell you the truth.”

In 1954, “Little Hogan” won the Los Angeles Open at Fox Hills Country Club in what is now Culver City, California. It was his only win in seven years on the PGA Tour. I also learned that Wampler and yours truly have some personal history in common. We were both born in Bedford, Indiana.

−The Armchair Golfer

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1 comment :

Vince Spence said...

I love stories behind the stories like this. Or, the 'Small Hawk'...