The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial golf tournament is the longest running event on the PGA Tour still being held at the original site (since 1946). The players of today know they are competing on the same hallowed ground as the great Ben Hogan won the championship five times in his hometown. His legacy permeates the event, and that's just part of the tradition that helps make the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial what it is, one of the most prestigious events on the PGA Tour. As one of the few Invitationals on the PGA TOUR our Eligibility Criteria annually attracts an elite field. Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas features one of the country's, and world's, highest ranked golf courses. Built in 1936, the traditional layout attracts pros from all over the world who appreciate its overall challenge. As long as golf course rankings have been made, Colonial has always made America’s top 100, one of the few PGA TOUR courses to do so.
The club's founder, local businessman Marvin Leonard, was a visionary who also sponsored a young Hogan during his early struggles on Tour. That relationship helped forge a lifelong love affair between Colonial and Ben Hogan. The club features a Hogan Trophy Room, honoring his legacy with trophies, memorabilia, video and other items from his legendary career. Outside, overlooking the 18th green, stands a statue of Hogan, frozen at the top of his follow-through and gazing at the beautiful course forever. This truly is "Hogan's Alley."
Colonial hosted the 1941 U.S. Open, the first time that event was held south of the Mason-Dixon line . The championship was won by Craig Wood, and the event was such a success that Colonial launched its annual "Colonial National Invitation Tournament" in 1946. Hogan won the first two years and helped elevate the event to international prominence quickly. Colonial also hosted the 1975 Players Championship, and the 1991 U.S. Women's Open. No other course has held a U.S. Open, a Players Championship and an annual PGA TOUR event.
The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial honors the history of golf by using an official Scottish royal tartan plaid jacket for its champions and top committee chairmen. This practice began at the 1952 event. The following year a tradition began which featured hometown boy Byron Nelson always hitting the first ball of each tournament, this lasting until his final appearance in 1966. During this time Ben Hogan always had the honor of starting the event in a featured pairing that included the defending champion.
Another tradition feeding Colonial history is the beautiful Wall of Champions on the first tee. Engraved with the name and score of each champion dating back to the 1941 U.S. Open, the marble display casts a reverence over the start of any player's round. Many will spend several minutes gazing at the wall, and reviewing the long list of the game's greatest: Hogan, Snead, Boros, Casper , Palmer, Trevino, Watson, Nicklaus, Crenshaw, Price, etc. The Wall was first erected in 1975 prior to the Players Championship held here that year. Originally designed to hold 50 champions, it was expanded in the 1990s to accommodate 100 winners.
Each champion’s name also appears on the tall and impressive Leonard Trophy, which resides year ‘round at the club, and bears the name of all winners dating back to 1946. The trophy was created for the 1949 tournament, which was cancelled due to a monstrous flood that swamped the entire city the week before. Thus it made its debut at the 1950 championship one year later.
Upon winning the event, in addition to the first place purse each champion receives a classic gold ring bearing a one-carat diamond, commemorating his victory. When the champion returns to defend his title the following year, he is honored at the annual Champions Dinner with a small replica Leonard Trophy, featuring a silver bowl and eagle atop a traditional wood base. Ben Hogan’s five replica trophies are on permanent display in the clubhouse Hogan Trophy Room.
Every year, these champions select two deserving young players to compete in the tournament, who otherwise would not have been eligible. It's a unique PGA Tour tradition known as the "Champions' Choice" invitation. Pros who made their first appearance at Colonial as a Champions' Choice include Al Geiberger, Tom Weiskopf, Craig Stadler, Curtis Strange, Mark O'Meara, Paul Azinger and Davis Love III. Dave Stockton won the event as a Champions Choice in 1967, and five other choices through the years have eventually won the event during their careers.
A relatively young tournament tradition is the hosting of the annual Hogan Award Banquet. Held just prior to the PGA Tour event, this prestigious event honors the top male collegiate golfer for the year. Co-sponsored by Colonial Country Club, the College Golf Coaches Association of America, and the Los Angeles-based “Friends of Golf” organization, the award has been given since 1990. Colonial Country Club began hosting the event in 2002. The black tie affair features luminaries from throughout the golf industry, and brings in the top three finalists for a Heisman Trophy-like presentation ceremony. Recent finalists have included Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, and D.J. Trahan. For more information on the Ben Hogan Award please log onto our Web site, www.TheBenHoganAward.org .