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Beach Grit

Comebacks: Ben Hogan v Owen Wright!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Two great athletes hit by buses. But whose comeback was better?

An hour or so ago, Kelly Slater raised a historical challenge on our Instagram account in regards to O Wright’s rise from brain dead-ish to number one in the world.

“Maybe a comparison to Ben Hogan winning the 1950 US Open within a year of having a near-death car accident would be timely,” he wrote.

It’s a good idea. So how about it?

Ben Hogan, who is American, was one of the best golfers who ever lived. Had a golf swing that is still studied, still copied. His book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf is the seminal golf how-to book. Had a hell of a childhood. His dad, who was a blacksmith, sat in front of Hogan when he was nine, pointed a shotgun at his chest and killed himself.

And in 1949, when he was thirty-six, Hogan had a head-on with a Greyhound bus that veered across the road. Threw himself across his wife in the passenger seat to save her. Ended up saving his own life when the steering column punctured the driver’s seat. Still. A double-fracture of the pelvis, busted ankle, busted collar bone and near-fatal blood-clots. Doctors told him he wouldn’t walk again. He did but his legs would swell and tire whenever he walked.

The following year, Hogan won the US Open in an eighteen-hole playoff. And he won five of the next seven majors he played.

And Owen?

Oh, we all thought he was cooked after his Pipeline brain injury. His condition was a mystery. His recovery was kept secret. Last May he wrote on Instagram that he couldn’t even get to his feet when he attempted surfing.

One month after the injury in December, 2015, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported, “Serious concerns surround the health of 2015 surfing world title contender, Owen Wright… Fears that Wright is still having trouble speaking and even standing have spread throughout tight-lipped surfing community…revealed he was still struggling with amnesia just last week.”

Rumours circulated. He found a girl. Had a baby.

Would he ever surf again? The idea of Owen competing on the WCT and…winning? No one was even going down that path.

At the Quiksilver Pro, Owen beat Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Conner O’Leary, Gabriel Medina and Matt Wilkinson to become the first injury wildcard in history to roll up at the season opener and win.

“At the start of February, I was sitting in the doctor’s office and there were question marks on the year,” Owen said after. “So to be sitting here right now, we just pushed hard and went hard. I confronted every fear of getting back into it. There were a lot of fears I needed to push through in order to get back into the sport and back into what pretty much took me out and could have taken me out forever. I kept going and kept doing it.”

You tell me. Hogan or Wright? Who’s got the better comeback story?