Montford memories: Privileged to be paid to watch every shot Hogan played in the '53 Open at Carnoustie

BEN Hogan captured the imagination of the Scottish sporting public when he arrived here in 1953 to take part in his first Open Championship. It would also be his last.

I became a close observer of Hogan at Carnoustie, after I was approached by two of Scotland's most distinguished golf writers, Sandy Adamson of the Glasgow Evening News and Percy Huggins of the Glasgow Evening Times who established first of all that I would be at Carnoustie, taking a week's holiday from my duties as a sports sub-editor at the Daily Record, then asked if I'd like to carry an ex-Army walkie-talkie on my back and relay to them in the press tent a description of every shot Hogan would hit throughout his 72 holes.

They would pay me 17 shillings and sixpence per day with half a crown for expenses. A whole pound – wow! I'd have done it for nothing to see this great champion in action. I watched him practice at his preferred time of late evening, usually with only a few spectators as he tried to plot his strategy. He got to love the "long Scotch evenings".

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Hogan was a true sporting legend. His early life was tough. At the age of nine he was in the same room when his father committed suicide. He caddied in Fort Worth, sold papers at the railway station, and developed the single-minded personality which he would carry on to the golf course in search of what one radio commentator called "relentless perfection".

In February 1949 he and his wife Valerie were driving home when their car was hit on a fog-bound road by a bus overtaking on the wrong side of the road. Hogan threw himself across his wife to help protect her as the steering wheel smashed into the driver's seat. It was a catastrophic accident and the surgeons who repaired Hogan's smashed legs, pelvis and shoulder doubted if he would ever play again.

A year later he astounded the golfing world by winning his second US Open, retained his title the following year plus winning the Masters, and came to Carnoustie as Masters and US Open champion.

In those pre-television days, newsreel clips at the movies and brief reports on our black and white TVs were the only visual images of an unforgettable Open.

With my press armband I was inside the ropes every day and called in to Sandy and Percy. The big question all week was simply "could Hogan play six rounds of' golf in five days" because he had to play a 36-hole qualifying test on the Monday and Tuesday, and straight into the Open proper on Wednesday plus the final 36 holes on the Friday. His limp, the legacy of the smash, grew more pronounced as the week wore on, but his golf got better with rounds of 73-71-70-68. His last round set a course record and he won by four strokes. The last shot of the Pathe News coverage shows me shaking hands with the new champion. But blink, and you'll miss it.

Many years after Carnoustie, Ulster Television invited me to host a series of interviews with golf's big name players, mostly in America. All those I contacted said they would be happy to meet me ... except Hogan. I reminded him of the affection the Scots had for him ... how I watched all of his 282 strokes at Carnoustie ... no series could be complete etc. But his rejection was nothing personal. He had been saying 'no' to guys like me for years.

The 13 players I interviewed were a reporter's delight, all of whom gave me great stories and great quotes. Jack Nicklaus: "The greater the pressure the better I like it." Sam Snead proudly showing me a huge stuffed polar bear which he had shot and sat in his lounge behind a couch. Arnold Palmer: "My brother and I grew up on the course at Latrobe, so we bought it for my Dad's retirement." Peter Thomson: "I thought the golf swing was so simple that I made an instructional LP. Which sold well!" Gary Player: "Yes it was me who said it, 'the harder I practice, the luckier I get." Tony Jacklin – "Henry Longhurst said that my win in the 1970 US Open at Hazeltine was the best performance by a British player ever in the USA. I like to think he was right."

Special mention must go to Byron Nelson who entertained us to lunch at his Texas ranch. In 1945 he won eleven PGA tournaments in succession, 18 for the year. His scoring average for the year was 68.5 per round. I wanted to know how such a sequence of wins came about. "At the start of the year I picked out a new driver with a little more loft than usual. And I just kept hitting fairways. At one point that year I had 19 rounds in succession under 70." And how did he feel, at the end of that amazing year? "Well, my back was pretty sore!"