Hogan's a hero

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

It's an argument that can't be won or lost but is hashed over daily in clubhouses around the world:

Who are the 10 best golfers of all time?

Obviously, there's no definitive answer yet a handful of fairway legends belong on any knowledgeable golfer's list.

Sun sports writer Dan Toth asked Calgary's Stephen Ames, who has played professionally around the world, to offer up his all-time greats.

The native of Trinidad and Tobago, who gained his Canadian citizenship a year ago, has been fortunate enough to tee it up with a couple of the golf gods who earned a place on his honour roll.

Who Ames selected -- and why -- will be revealed in this special 10-part series.

In no particular order, here are the golfers Ames most admires:

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1. JACK NICKLAUS

2. BOBBY JONES

3. BEN HOGAN

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BEN HOGAN

BORN -- Aug. 13, 1912, in Dublin, Tex.

DIED -- July 25, 1997.

NICKNAME -- Bantam Ben; The Hawk.

MAJORS -- Masters (1951, 53); U.S. Open (1948, 50, 51, 53); British Open (1953); PGA Championship (1946, 48).

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The pros at PGA Tour events line the practice range from one end to the other, looking for the secret.

The game's best players pound balls, groove their swings and search for that elusive rhythm that, when lost, make them feel like they're playing cross-handed.

Ben Hogan also had to sweat over piles of range balls, fighting a tendency to hook the ball through the first decade of his career, toiling to earn a living as a pro.

Despite struggling early in his career, Hogan developed his swing and became one of the game's all-time greats.

"It was the fact it took him 10 years to win his first event --

I think it took as long as that," says Calgary's PGA Tour star Stephen Ames, noting Hogan searched for a cure for a severe hook, eventually being credited with finding a 'secret' to the golf swing.

"He had to work a lot of it out. That's why everyone said he had the 'secret.' It was in the dirt. There was no secret."

Hogan won nine majors, including four U.S. Opens, and recovered from life-threatening injuries sustained in a frightening car accident that almost claimed his life.

In 1949 Hogan suffered a broken collarbone, cracked ribs, a broken ankle and a fractured pelvis, injuries that threatened to end his career.

Sixteen months later, the man known as Bantam Ben won the

U.S. Open.

He claimed nine of the 16 majors he competed in from the 1946 PGA Championship to the British Open seven years later.

At the age of 41 in 1953, Hogan won five of six events, including three majors.

To this day, he is one of only five men to win the career Grand Slam, along with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods.

Hogan's steely-eyed stare was once described as being like a landlord asking for next month's rent.

It was a look that let everyone around him know if hard work was the answer, he'd solved the puzzle.

"Definitely persistent," Ames says of one of Hogan's strongest traits.

"He did things differently than anybody else did.

"It's horribly hard to do. Very hard, exceptionally difficult.

"It takes a lot of time away from the rest of your life and then it becomes golf 24 hours a day.

"It's a longevity game, unlike hockey. Your life span in some other sports is very short. In other sports, you have put 110 percent into it for

10 or 15 years and then you can go on to another part of your life."

Ames also has fought nagging neck and back injuries and, in recent years, has turned to a stringent fitness regimen to off-set the injuries and prevent others.

"The fitness regimen got me out of it," Ames points out. "Staying fit and getting stronger, that's has helped a lot. I still go for workouts. "

Hogan died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 84.

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WHO'S NO. 4 ON STEPHEN'S LIST?

Find out tomorrow in the Sun but here's a hint: He won 11 consecutive tournaments


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