Friday, May 18

The Hickok Belt Explained

AS YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY HEARD, there was a break-in and burglary at the United States Golf Association (USGA) in Far Hills, New Jersey, early on Wednesday morning. According to the Associated Press, several trophy cases in the USGA Museum were shattered with an ax. The burglary was apparently the work of one person, based on a review of the security video. Among the missing artifacts are the U.S. Amateur trophy and a replica of Ben Hogan’s Hickok Belt.

What was the Hickok Belt?

It wasn’t something the great Hogan wore to hold up his trousers.

Named for S. Rae Hickok, beginning in 1950 the Hickok Belt was awarded to the top U.S. professional athlete of the year, a tradition that continued until 1976. Hickok’s Rochester-based company made belts, and the jeweled award belt was created in his honor. It was made of alligator skin and featured a solid gold buckle, a four-carat diamond and 26 gem chips. When it was awarded to New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle in 1956, the Hickok Belt was valued at $10,000.

Ben Hogan was the first of three golfers to win the Hickok Belt. Hogan received the award for his 1953 season during which he completed what became known as the “Hogan Slam.” He won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, the greatest season in golf since Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam (both Opens and both Amateurs) in 1930. Hogan couldn’t compete in the 1953 PGA Championship since it was played around the same time he was at Carnoustie, his first and last appearance at the British Open.

The other two golfers to win the Hickok Belt were Arnold Palmer in 1960 and Lee Trevino in 1971.

Other sports stars who have been awarded the Hickok Belt include Rocky Marciano, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Jim Brown, Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax won it twice.

Beginning this year, the Hickok Belt is making a comeback.

(Visor tip: Geoff Shackelford)

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