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Famous North Berwick Golfers
Willie Anderson     Arnaud Massy   Fred McLeod   Dorothy Campbell   Jimmy Thomson

[*]
Jack Hobens
Golf Professional
Born: 1880, Dunbar, East Lothian
Died: 25th March 1944, Englewood, N.J.

[14th on West Links]
Jack Hobens at Englewood, June 1906
© Digitalsport UK

[14th on West
Links]
14th on West Links, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK

[Quadrant, North
Berwick]
[*]
Tournament Record
U.S. Open : 1902 (14th), 1903 (9th), 1904 (11th)
Western Open : runner-up in 1906
U.S. Open : 1905 (7th),1906 (10th),1907 (4th),
1908 (6th),1909 (4th),1910 (7th)
U.S. PGA : 1916 (Last 16), 1919 (Last 32)
Metropolitan Open Championship 1908

  Jack Hobens registers first
hole-in-one in a U.S.Open

By Douglas Seaton
North Berwick Factfile

JOHN OWEN HOBEN, born 25th October 1880 in Coffin Street, Dunbar. By the age of eight his family had moved to North Berwick and were living in a two room property above John Macintyre's stables in the former foundry off Quadrant Lane. John or 'Jack' had five brothers and a sister, his father was Thomas Hoben, a groom and his mother Elizabeth (Annie) Owen.

Jack Hoben had a difficult upbringing as his parents were alcoholics and being the oldest in the family he had to look after his siblings. From the age of eleven he was a licensed caddie and was granted his professional ticket on the West Links on 13th December 1894 at the remarkable age of fifteen years.

"Hobens had an outstanding record in the U.S. Open, finishing in the top ten in eight appearances."

His brothers Thomas Jnr. and James were often in trouble with the authorities and James was sent to the Mars Training Ship for 'Bad Boys', moored on the River Tay near Dundee. The other brother William joined Jack in America in 1903.

A highlight for the young Jack Hoben was travelling to Kent to play in the 1899 Open Championship at Royal St George's Golf Club, Sandwich. Unfortunately he shot 90 in the first round and withdrew, but the experience he gained competing against Harry Vardon, James Braid and Willie Park Jnr meant he could line-up with anybody.

Jack Hoben emigrated to America in January 1900 and was accompanied on the journey by Tom Anderson Snr, former North Berwick head greenkeeper and his son Thomas Jnr. brother of US Open Champion Willie Anderson.

Hoben was appointed pro at Yountakah Country Club in Nutley, New Jersey and Tom Anderson Sr. took up a position ten miles away at Montclair Country Club. In April 1901, Jack moved less than five miles to Glen Ridge Golf Club and George Thomson from North Berwick took over at Yountakah. At the time of his marriage to an Irish girl Bridget 'Delia' Lilly, Jack changed his surname to Hobens.

Jack was first mentioned in the 'sports pages' in 1901 following a report on the 36-hole tournament at Hollywood Golf Club, New Jersey. The event attracted over forty professionals including Willie Anderson, James Campbell and George Thomson from North Berwick. Hobens partnered Jack Park from Musselburgh while Willie Smith edged out Anderson for the winners prize money.

In 1902, Jack returned to Yountakah where he stayed until 1904. The following year he moved to Englewood Country Club where he was the pro for over seventeen years, living at 174 Phelps Avenue. Jack had an outstanding record in the US. Open, finishing fourteenth in 1902, and never out of the top eleven in his next eight appearances. His best chance came in 1907, when he led the championship after the third round, only to close with a 12 over-par 85, finishing seven strokes behind winner Alex Ross brother of the well known course designer Donald Ross.

During the First World War, Hobens played in exhibition matches with 16 year old Bobby Jones, to raise money for the American Red Cross.

During that tournament at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, he holed his tee shot at the 147 yard, 10th to register the first US. Open hole-in-one. On 22nd June 1906, Hobens entered the Western Open at Homewood C.C in Illinois, when he finished second to Alex Smith from Carnoustie. Hobens took the early 36-hole lead by shooting 154, but Smith shot 75-74 on the final day to capture the title by three strokes. Willie Anderson and Fred McLeod from North Berwick tied for third place.

In September 1908 Jack Hobens won the Metropolitan Open Championship at Baltusrol, New Jersey. That year for the first time all golf professionals in America were invited to enter the tournament, but in reality most of the competitors came from Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The field also included a number of former North Berwick caddies such as Tom Anderson (Montclair), George Turnbull (Washington) and the Thomson brothers, James R Thomson (Merion) and Robert M. Thomson (Knollwood).

At that tournament Jack Hobens and Jock Hutchison shot 71 to set a new course record. At the sixth, Hobens played his second over the trees and laid the ball dead on the green, he also holed his mashie shot for a two at the ninth. Jack held on to win the tournament by a single stroke from Alex Campbell (originally from Troon, Ayrshire). Hobens collected a gold medal, the first purse of $150 and another $75 in special prizes. This was the highlight of a stunning playing career and from that day Hobens was always associated with the 1908 Metropolitan Open Championship.

In 1909, Jack hosted the US. Open, played at Englewood Golf Club where he was the professional. It was the practice during the week of the US. Open, to hold garden parties, vaudeville shows, firework displays, evening dances and competitions for the professionals organised by the host Club. On Tuesday a unique pro-am featuring mixed partners took place and a best ball foursome game on Wednesday. Miss Julia R. Mix teamed up with Jack Hobens to win the competition on 162. In the best ball match, Mix and Hobens carded a 69 and Willie Anderson and his partner finished second. Prior to the main event Fred McLeod played a practice round with Gilbert Nichols in a foursome match against Willie Anderson and his brother Tom Anderson Jnr. which the Andersons won 3&1.

In October 1911, Jack Hobens played in a four-ball match partnering George Duncan who had just arrived from Scotland. George had a long association with North Berwick and was visiting his brother Alec Duncan, professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club. Jack Hobens and his guest George Duncan defeated Dave Hunter, the Essex Country Club professional and his partner Aleck Smith of the Wykagyl Golf Club. George Duncan was invited to play Deal Beach Golf Club, New Jersey. His brother Alec Duncan succeeded Willie Anderson from North Berwick at Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1911.

Tom Anderson Jnr entered the Championship from the Montclair Golf Club, and finished in 8th place. The winner was George Sargent, while Willie Anderson finished 4th; Jack Hobens 6th, and the defending champion Fred McLeod finished in 13th place. In 1910 Jack Hobens was elected president of the Eastern Professional Golfers Association which was a forerunner to the PGA of America. In the qualifying rounds for the 1913 US Open at Brookline, Jack partnered Ted Ray and the New York Times reported that when they both launched towering tee shots over the elbow of the dogleg the crowd erupted in appreciation. The two men walked off down the first fairway trailed by the largest-gallery of the day - over a thousand people including the writer Bernard Darwin. In January 1914 the Hackensack Club engaged Jack Hobens to extend their course from 5,800 yards to more than 6,000 and carry-out alterations.

On 17th January 1916, Rodman Wanamaker, a keen amateur golfer and heir to the Wanamaker department store fortune (now Macy's), held a meeting at the Taplow Club, in the Hotel Martinique on the corner of Broadway and West 32nd Steet in New York City for the purpose of forming the Professional Golfers Association of America. The luncheon was attended by several leading amateurs and 35 professionals, known as the 'Charter Members', including Jack Hobens and James R. Thomson from North Berwick. Their aim was to advance the standing of the club professional, caddies and greenkeepers in the United States.

New York Times - February 24, 1916. At a meeting yesterday in Hotel Martinique, Manhattan, the committee which is drawing up the constitution for the proposed association of professional golfers. The members of committee were set forth. Jack Hobens, Englewood Country Club, Herbert Strong, Inwood Country Club and Jack Mackie, Dunwoodie Country Club. It was decided to call the organisation The Professional Golfers' Association of America. A copy of the constitution will be sent to every professional in the United States and Canada who is eligible for membership, which means all those over 17 years of age. Copies will also be sent to the various golf clubs all over the country in order to get their support for the movement. Wanamakers sponsored the first PGA Championship in 1916 when Jack Hobens reached the last sixteen. Cornishman Jim Barnes defeated the former St Andrews caddie, Jock Hutchison by one hole, to lift the Wanamaker Trophy. In July 1917, the PGA organised the biggest War Relief Tournament ever. Played over a week on four courses, Englewood, Baltusrol, Siwanoy and Garden City. It included matches between a Homebred team versus a Scottish team and an English team. In the Scottish team (photographed below) were Fred McLeod and Jack Hobens.

[Cigarette Card]
[Scottish Team]
Jack Hobens Cigarette Card from 1910
Standing (left to right): Alex Cunningham, George Fotheringham, Jock Hutchison, Willie McFarlane, Issac Mackie. Sitting: George Simpson, Alex Campbell, George Low, Fred McLeod and Jack Hobens.

In 1921 the PGA committee decided to reorganise the PGA sections and Jack Hobens was given this task. His committee recommended that rather than having a PGA section in each State which was not viable due to the low number of professionals, they decided to create twenty-four smaller sections rather than the original seven.

It was usual practice at this time, for the club professional to attend a member's summer house and teach the entire family for a month or more. Hobens travelled to Maine with Dwight Morrow on several occasions. Morrow's daughter Anne, married aviator Charles Lindbergh and Jack would often travel to his residence to teach. He also coached leading amateurs Gene Homans and Oswald Kirkby.

Throughout the winter months when the northern professionals moved south to Florida Jack Hoben remained in his workshop at Englewood and made golf clubs ready to sell to his members the following spring. He ordered the heads from Tom Stewart at 14 Argyle Street, St Andrews, Scotland and made the hickory shafts himself. Clubs stamped 'J.Hobens' are highly collectable. In the winter of 1916 Jack Hobens was employed in the golf department on the top floor of Wanamaker's store in New York. John D. Dunn (from North Berwick) was head of the 18 teaching staff, and the list of instructors read like a who's who of golfers from the period and the facility was the largest in the city.

Robert, William, James and Francis Hobens

Jack's brother Willie Hobens emigrated in 1903 and joined Jack at Younkatah Country Club, Nutley, NJ. In 1905, Willie Hobens was appointed to the nine-hole course at Ridgeway Golf Club (Maple Avenue site), NJ. and represented the club in a professional tournament at Van Cortlandt Park in 1906. Also in the field were former North Berwick caddies George Thomson (Roseville); Ed. Fitzjohn (Schenectady); Tom Anderson ( Montclair); John Hobens (Englewood); George C Turnbull (Waterbury CT); and Jack Campbell (Mt. Airy). The winner was Alec Smith $150, with North Berwick's own George Turnbull was second $80. Willie Hobens returned to North Berwick in 1909 and took up caddie work on the West Links while residing at 44 High Street, North Berwick. Willie Hobens died in Longmore Hospital, Edinburgh on 3rd September 1910, aged 27 years. The Ridgewood Golf Club moved to the Lincoln Avenue site in 1911, and Jack Hobens and David Hunter pro at Essex County designed the new course for the re- named Ridgeway Country Club. Unfortunately they went over budget and only completed nine-holes. The course was finished by Alec Finlay in 1915.

In 1905, Jack Hobens visited his parents in North Berwick and the following March he returned to America with his younger brother Isaac Owen Hoben (b.1889) Isaac was Jack's assistant at Englewood Golf Club, New Jersey. During WW1 Isaac was employed as foreman machinist by Nicholas Power Company in New York City. Isaac and his wife Sadie resided at 154, Valley Street, Tarrytown, Westchester.

Jack's sister Annie Hobens (b.1882) was a care worker at Miss Quarrier's Home, Bridge of Weir and she joined her brother at Englewood New Jersey in 1907. In March 1911 they were joined by their younger brother Robert 'Bob' Hoben (b.1885) who was the first pro to be appointed to Shawnee Inn & Country Club, PA. Previously Bob Hoben had followed Daniel Kenny from North Berwick as greenkeeper at Stranraer Golf Club in 1907. Bob Hoben retuned to Scotland after six months at Shawnee on the Delaware, missing his new baby son and wife Mary Jarvie who remained in Beaconsfield Cottage, Kirkowens Street, Milldamhead, Dumfries. In 1916 Bob was appointed professional and greenkeeper at Broomieknowe Golf Club. He was engaged at 30 shillings a week, along with a boy trainee at 18 shillings. Hobens was also allowed to sell and repair clubs and give lessons. Following a disagreement, Hobens was given a fortnight's notice and for the remained of his career he worked in the Dalkeith mines.

In 1923, they were joined by their 23 year old nephew Francis 'Frank' Hobens who was assistant to Jack Hobens at Huntingdon Valley C.C. Frank shared the journey to America with golfers Bruce Heatly from Dunbar and James Langlands from Gullane. Frank Hobens was appointed pro at Quetonset C.C, Westbrook, Connecticut (1925-26), then Massena C.C, New York (1927-30), before being appointed golf instructor at the New York Athletic Club. He lived with his wife Nellie Adleman from Illinois, daughter Margaret and son Thomas at 4024 Glenwood Road, Brooklyn, NY.

Jack's older brother James Hoben (1876-1941) was granted a first-class caddie license on the West Links on 13th December 1894, and he was later appointed greenkeeper at North Berwick. In 1911 James Hoben laid out a 2897 yard nine-hole course at Vaul Golf Club on the Isle of Tiree. The work was carried out under the instruction of Charles McNeil from Prestwick, whose father John McNeil owned the Colonial Iron Works in Govan. It has been suggested that Charles McNeil brought Hobben to Tiree to work on the new course. The 1911 census, taken on Sunday 2nd April, lists James Hoben as a passenger on S.S. Numidian, a Royal Mail Steamer, tied up in Princess Dock, Glasgow, ready to embark to Quebec, Canada, calling on Tiree on-route. His occupation was listed as a greenkeeper employed by the Bowling Club in North Berwick.

In 1912, James Hoben was living in Ferrygate Cottages, Dirleton, and while on Tiree he met his future wife Catherine McArthur and they were married in 1913. Hoben moved to Glasgow and was living in Sussex Street, Kinning Park when he was listed as a greenkeeper in the Pollokshields district. During WW1 he transferred to a reserved occupation as a dock labourer and his wife and two daughters were living in Main Street, Govan. Catherine died at Vaul on the Isle of Tiree in 1928, and James returned to Glasgow and was living at 37 Plantation Street, Govan.

Jack Hobens was pro at Yountakah (1900); Glen Ridge (1901); Yountakah (1902-04); Englewood Country Club (1905-22); Knickerbocker (1927-1941) all in New Jersey, and Huntingdon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania (1923-26). He was elected a Life Member of the PGA of America and one of his clubs is on display in the PGA headquarters along with 25 others clubs from the founding fathers.

James R Thomson from the Horse Crook in North Berwick was also a member of the first PGA of America Executive Committee in 1916.

Jack suffered from a physical disability and retired at the age of 60 years. He died on 26th March 1944, at his home at 164, West Hudson Avenue, Englewood, NJ. He had five daughters and at the time of his death three sons serving in the Marine Corps in WW2. In 2005, Jack Hobens grandson Frank wrote." He was a lovely man who came from nothing and made quite a success for himself and his family. When he died, he left my grandmother several houses and a substantial stock portfolio that provided for her for some thirty years of widowhood. My Mom was the eldest of their eight children."

Thomas Hoben was the last of the family to live in North Berwick. He was also the last of the traditional licensed golf pro's on the West Links where he gave lessons. Thomas Francis Owen Hoben lived at 68, Lochbridge Road where he dead 6th July 1957.

In 2004, the PGA opened a historical center at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida where Jack Hobens was one of the original inductees into the PGA Golf Professional Hall Of Fame. His granddaughter, Barbara Hobens Feldt and her family were invited guests at the PGA's ninetieth anniversary celebrations at the Hotel Martinique, New York City in 2006.

Copyright © Douglas Seaton 2017, All Rights Reserved.