InMarket: Passion, if you’ve got it, rock on

Ben Hogan. Photo courtesy of Ben Hogan Foundation

Robert Francis

I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain. – Rita Mae Brown

Passion. It’s not just a sub-par Rod Stewart song. If you’ve got it for your work, it’s a great thing. If not? Well, if you’ve ever had a job that just plain sucked the life out of your soul until you became a zombified dried crumbling husk of a human being, then you know what I’m talking about. No amount of double-shot Starbucks espressos can get you motivated. I once took a nice, well-paying (for journalism, anyway) job at a former employer. It was a job that, when I had worked there previously, had been great. The magazine was solid and people in the industry saw us as an up-and-coming upstart that offered a solid alternative to the tried-and-true status quo publication.

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When I returned, the magazine quite simply had lost its mojo. Though my paycheck had increased exponentially, work was a chore, like tying a brick to each foot. Mercifully, after a year it was over, the plug was pulled on the news operations and I could go on and find something that could reconstruct what was left of my undernourished, desiccated soul. I went out with friends, had a margarita, raised my glass and said, “Thank the Lord, I’ve been canned.” Say ‘Amen’ with me if you know what I’m talking about. I run across people with a lot of passion in my line of business. If you cover entrepreneurs, in particular, you’ll find a level of enthusiasm that can sometimes border on mania.

Sometimes that passion has to wait for the right place and the right time. That’s the case with the Ben Hogan Co., which is now being reconstructed in Ben Hogan’s longtime city of residence, Fort Worth. Hogan entered the golf club business in 1953, the same year he accomplished a feat dubbed “the Hogan Slam” – winning three of golf’s four major championships, the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open. That was just a few years after an automobile accident left doctors wondering if he’d walk again. That passion thing again. Hogan, a golfer well known for his perfectionism, destroyed his new company’s first run of clubs, worth a reported $100,000, because they didn’t meet his exacting standards. That’s some passion and some trust from his investors. I felt a little connection with the company because I ended up with a few of the clubs in my smorgasbord of a golf bag and because the company’s location, a former plumbing shop at 2912 West Pafford St., was on my bicycle-riding route as a teenager. Hogan eventually sold the business and subsequent owners allowed the Hogan brand to fall from prominence, one of them even moving it from Texas to Virginia.

Now Terry Koehler, president and CEO of Victoria-based Eidolon Brands, in partnership with Perry Ellis, is bringing the Hogan brand back to Fort Worth and says he’s determined to restore it to its former glory. Koehler has passion. He is a lifelong Ben Hogan devotee and former director of marketing of the Ben Hogan Co. in years past. He is also the architect of the SCOR4161 product line, a line of wedges and set-match short irons that gets raves from some of the online golf publications I visited. (There’s that passion thing again.) For Koehler, creating the ‘new’ Ben Hogan Co. represents an opportunity to honor the legacy of two of his heroes: his father and Hogan. “My golf life began with an introduction to Mr. Hogan’s values and principles from my father,” Koehler said. “He played with Mr. Hogan before the war and considered him a true hero, so I did too. I grew up with Power Golf and Five Lessons [Hogan’s books on golf] as my golf textbooks, and always played Hogan irons from my very first cut-down 5- and 9-iron.” Koehler said Five Lessons was first published as a five-part series in Sports Illustrated, starting on March 11, 1957 – which happened to be his fifth birthday. “I always believed that was planned. Still do,” he said.

Koehler said he called his team together in Fort Worth last week to discuss future plans and to “get on the same page.” That meant talking about Ben Hogan. “I don’t have the ability to talk about Mr. Hogan without getting choked up. I told them this is our mission, this is what we were put here to do and I believe that from the bottom of my heart,” he said. I’m pretty sure Koehler doesn’t have any trouble getting out of bed to go to work. That passion thing, you know.