Wednesday, December 17, 2008


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Walter Hagen Vintage Autograph
© 2008, Golf Links to the Past, Inc

BIRTHDATE: Dec. 21, 1892
BIRTHPLACE: Rochester, N.Y.
DEATH: Oct. 5, 1969
Ryder Cup appearances: 5 (1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935)
Non playing captain: 1937

11 Major Championships:
• U.S. Open: 1914, 1919
• British Open: 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929
• PGA Championship: 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927
(© Society of Hickory Golfers 2005-2008)

A caddie from the age of 9, Hagen was 21 when he won his first major tournament:
1914 US Open Championship[PDF file].

By the end of the 1920s, Hagen had established himself as one of the greatest and most colorful golfers of his time. During his career he won the U.S. Open twice (1914 and 1919), the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Championship five times (1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927), and the British Open four times (1922, 1924, 1928, and 1929). He also won the French Open (1920), the Belgian Open (1924), and the Canadian Open (1931).

Walter Hagen - 1919 U.S. Open Champion
©2006 Historic Golf Photos

When the Open was resumed in June at the Brae Burn Country Club, West Newton, Mass., Walter Hagen, now playing from the Oakland Hills Country Club, near Detroit, restored the prestige of the professionals. He played the last six holes in one under fours to overhaul Mike Brady with a 75 in the last round and then won a playoff marked by several controversies over the Rules, 77 to 78. Hagen's first four rounds were 78-73-75-75 for 301, seventeen over par. Meanwhile, Willie Chisholm took 18 on the 185-yard eighth hole in the first round.
The purse was increased again, to $1,745; first professional prize remained $500, but other prizes were increased the eleventh and twelfth places were added. For the first time, play was extended to three days, with one round on each of the first two days and two rounds on the third.
Preferring to have a major title to his name throughout the year, Hagen did not mind working his way around the U.S. circuit. He won opens in Massachusetts (1915), Michigan (1921 and 1931), New York (1922), and Texas (1923 and 1929); three Metropolitan Opens (1916, 1919, and 1920); two North and South Opens (1918 and 1923), five Western Opens (1916, 1921, 1926, 1927, and 1932); one Eastern Open (1926); and the Gasparilla Open (1935). He was also selected to play as a member of the American Ryder Cup team, which played golf against teams from other nations, in 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935. He was the nonplaying captain of the Ryder Cup team in 1937.
(Copyright © 2008 Answers Corporation)
From ©2006 Historic Golf Photos

1929 Ryder Cup
Hagen and Batley with cup
© Society of Hickory Golfers 2005-2008

Charles Whitcombe and Walter Hagen
1931 Ryder Cup

1933 American Ryder Cup Team
©2006 Historic Golf Photos

1933 Ryder Cup
© 1998-2008

Walter Charles Hagen rose from the ranks of being a caddy to capture two U.S. and four British Open Championships, and the PGA title an impressive five times. But it was his personality that insured his place in golf’s history. He was flamboyant and colorful, with a style for living that made professionals aware of what was possible within their profession. No golfer could have a temperament better suited to the game. He could break concentration between strokes, chatting nonchalantly to spectators, without losing his focus on the match. Indeed, it was his ability to project his personality in the course of a round that played such havoc with his opponents. His swing was anything but classic -- swaying on the backswing and lunging into the ball on the downswing, often sending it wild, especially off the tee. But he had a way of saving himself from seemingly impossible positions, scrambling to reach the green, then more often than not, sinking an unmakable putt and shattering a rival's concentration and confidence.
© 2008, Golf Links to the Past, Inc
He popularised colourful clothing on the golf course. Just imagine the sight of this American turning up to play the Open in colourful plus fours and tank top and two-tone shoes, while the rest of the field were wearing sporting clothes with all the colour that brown and grey can afford!
Hagen's successes as a golfer which included four Opens, 2 US Opens and 5 US PGA Championships, were overshadowed by his character. He "never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one".
His greatest accomplishment was probably winning five PGA Championships, including four in a row, when it was a match-play tournament. He won in 1921, didn't play in 1922, lost to Gene Sarazen in the final in 1923, then won each year from 1924 through 1927. During those six years of competition, he lost just one match against the best professionals in the United States.
Bob [Jones] was a fine man to be partnered with in a tournament. Congenial and considerate, he made you feel that you were playing with a friend, and you were. At the same time, in a unique and wondrous way, Bob quietly unleashed the most furious concentration of any golfer, in those days when it was Jones versus the field. This arduous dedication to the job at hand left him spent and weary after each round. Bob never hung around the locker room long after his day's play was over. Hagen-you could never get him out. The two great champions were completely dissimilar in their attitudes toward crowds. Jones was always polite toward his idolatrous galleries, but I think he regarded them as an element that could deter his concentration if he let it invade his thoughts. Hagen loved the crowd. He hated to have to leave his gallery at the conclusion of a match, and did everything he could to postpone that painful parting. In their one man-against-man meeting in Florida in 1926, Walter administered a decisive lacing to Bob, but it is notable that Walter never was able to win an Open championship in which Jones was entered. Walter had Jonesitis as bad as the rest of us.
- Extracted from Thirty Years of Championship Golf by Gene Sarazen with Herbert Warren Wind
© Society of Hickory Golfers 2005-2008
Ask who was the best golfer in the world during the '20,s and '30,s, and most people would answer Bobby Jones, although not a few would give Walter Hagen the nod; ask who was the best match player of the era and almost no one would reply other than Walter Hagen. Walter won the PGA Championship an incredible five times including, between 1924 and 1927, an astonishing four times in a row! Walter had an awesome record in challenge matches - prior to 1925 he had only lost three.
Golf was not Walter's first love, his first love was baseball, and he was a very good baseball player, good enough to be invited to spring training with Philadelphia Nationals. In fact golf was a secondary sport for him until his US Open win. He had started at age eight as a caddie at the Country Club of Rochester, helping to put bread on the family table, and apart from golf he tried his hand at the numerous other sports played at the club - tennis, polo skating, hunting and fishing, and he excelled at all of them. As he himself put it:
"I had a sort of tireless energy, a compulsion to be doing something, to be on the move. not a nervous energy, but an inspired physical reaction which gave me so much confidence in my own ability that I was always thoroughly relaxed in any game ... I played to win ... I liked the feel of a golf club in my hand and I was forever swing a club".
He had no formal golf lessons, but he had - like all great actors and showmen - a wonderful power of mimicry. He could mimic the duffers as well as the better players. He figured out what it was about the duffers swing that made them duffers, and then set out to avoid it.
- By F.B.
© Society of Hickory Golfers 2005-2008
His personal life was more of a struggle, however. Despite two failed marriages (Margaret, his first wife, was the mother of his son, Walter Jr.) and other hardships (his grandson, Walter III, died at age 15 in a target shooting accident), Walter Hagen lived life to the fullest.

Margaret, his first wife
his son, Walter Jr.

Vintage Photograph of Edna Hagen
Autographed by Walter Hagen

His second wife, Edna Strauss, had a slightly different observation after she divorced him in 1927:
Unless a woman is a golf addict herself, she should never marry a confirmed golfer. It can only go on the rocks. Walter lived golf, asleep and awake. Before dinner and after he was practicing strokes in the living room.

Walter Hagen retired from active competition in 1940 and in 1956 published his autobiography, The Walter Hagen Story.

Walter Hagen Quotes - The Original Playboy:
'Make the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look hard'
'Once again Hagen has shown that concentration counts, and that a man who refuses to smoke during a round has the advantage over his rivals who cannot keep their pipe or cigarettes for other times - Arthur Lee on Walter Hagen in The Guardian, 1924'
'Which one of you is going to be runner up?'
'No-one remembers who came second'
'When I used to see him come into the clubhouse in the morning wearing a tuxedo, I knew we were in for a bad day - Leggy Ahern, Walter Hagen's caddie'
'I never wanted to be a millionaire; I just wanted to live like one'
'If you three putt the first green, they'll never remember it. But if you three putt the 18th, they'll never forget it'
'I expect to make seven mistakes a round. Therefore, when I make a bad shot, I don't worry about it. It's just one of those seven'
'Give me a man with big hands and big feet and no brains and I'll make a golfer out of him'
'Never hurry, never worry, and always remember to smell the flowers along the way'
'Walter Hagen was probably the greatest exponent of the kind of rhythm I have in mind to play golf - Ben Hogan'
'I found a lot of fun playing golf and met a lot of people. I met kings and queens. Golf has always been good to me, and I hope that I did a little to help golf'
(From © 2008 Direct Golf Tuition Online Golf Lessons)

Awards and Honors
• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame, 1974
• Captain of each of the first 6 U.S. Ryder Cup teams

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