Walter Hagen

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Walter Hagen
— Golfer —
Walter Hagen 1914.png
Walter Hagen in 1914
Personal information
Full name Walter Charles Hagen
Nickname Sir Walter, The Haig
Born (1892-12-21)December 21, 1892
Rochester, New York
Died October 6, 1969(1969-10-06) (aged 76)
Traverse City, Michigan
Height 5 ft 10.5 in (1.79 m)
Weight 185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st)
Nationality  United States
Spouse Edna Crosby Straus
(m. 1923–37)
Margaret Johnson
(m. 1917–21)
Children Walter Jr. (1918–82)
Turned professional 1912
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Professional wins 75
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 45 (8th all time)
Other 30
Best results in major championships
(wins: 11)
Masters Tournament T11: 1936
U.S. Open Won: 1914, 1919
The Open Championship Won: 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929
PGA Championship Won: 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974 (member page)

Walter Charles Hagen (December 21, 1892 – October 6, 1969) was an American professional golfer and a major figure in golf in the first half of the 20th century. His tally of 11 professional majors is third behind Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (14). He won the U.S. Open twice, and in 1922 he became the first native-born American to win the British Open, which he went on to win four times in total.[1] He also won the PGA Championship a record-tying five times (1921, 19241927), and the Western Open five times when it had near-major championship status. Hagen totaled 45 PGA wins in his career, and was a six-time Ryder Cup captain.


Early years

Born in Rochester, New York, Hagen came from a working-class family of German descent. His parents were William and Louisa (Boelke) Hagen, his father worked as a millwright and blacksmith in Rochester's railroad-car shops. Walter was the second of William and Louisa's five children, the only boy in the family.

Hagen developed his golf game at the Country Club of Rochester, beginning as a caddy, and earned money to help support his family from pre-teen age. Hagen played golf at every chance he got; caddy access to the course was limited to off-peak times, as it was elsewhere in the U.S. during that era. Hagen gradually improved his golf skill to the stage where he was an expert player by his mid-teens, and was then hired by the club to give lessons to club members and to work in the pro shop. He made his top-class professional debut at age 19 at the 1912 Canadian Open, placing 11th, a good showing. Hagen was also very skilled at baseball, primarily as a pitcher and shortstop. He canceled a 1914 tryout for the Philadelphia Phillies in order to play in a golf tournament. Later that week, Hagen was the U.S. Open Champion, and his career was changed forever.[2]

Raises stature of golf professionals

Hagen was a key figure in the development of professional golf. He emerged in an era when the division between amateurs and professionals was often stark, with the amateurs having the upper hand in some sports, golf among them. This was especially true in the United Kingdom, which was the leading country in competitive golf when Hagen began his career. Golf professionals were not allowed to partake of the facilities of the clubhouse, and were not allowed to enter the clubhouse by the front door. On one occasion, at the 1920 British Open in Deal, Kent, Hagen hired a Pierce-Arrow car to serve as his private dressing room, because he was refused entrance to the clubhouse dressing room. He hired a chauffeur, and parked the expensive car in the club's driveway; this behavior raised a few eyebrows in class-conscious Britain. On another occasion he refused to enter a clubhouse to claim his prize because he had earlier been denied entrance. The 1920 U.S. Open in Toledo, Ohio marked a turning point; the players, encouraged by Hagen, donated a large grandfather clock to the host Inverness Club, in appreciation of the club allowing access for the professionals to their clubhouse during the tournament.

Hagen represented the Country Club of Rochester early in his professional competitive career; he was well supported by its members and management for his external competitive ventures. Beginning in 1918, Walter Hagen served as the first club professional at the now legendary Oakland Hills Country Club, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. He worked for Oakland Hills until 1919, and then became the first touring professional unaffiliated with a club, a status he held alone for several years. In the late 1920s Hagen represented the Pasadena Yacht & Country Club,[3] a new development in St. Petersburg, Florida, in which he had a financial interest.

Style, wealth

A sketch of Hagen by syndicated cartoonist Robert W. Edgren in 1922.

Hagen was a dashing and assertive character who raised the status of professional golfers and improved their earnings as well. Throughout his career, he played hundreds of exhibition matches, all across the United States and around the world; these tours popularized golf to an immense degree. Hagen was also widely known for his dashing wardrobe while playing; this featured expensive tailored clothes in bright colors and plush fabrics. As one of the world's top players, Hagen found his skills were much in demand with this exhibition format, and concluded it was much more lucrative than playing most tournaments.

Hagen also made significant money endorsing golf equipment, and played a major role in helping to design clubs for Wilson Sports, which bore his name (either "Walter Hagen" or "Haig Ultra"). His work with Wilson produced some of the first matched sets of irons, around the same time that his great rival Bobby Jones was performing similar work for the Spalding company. The improved equipment expanded golf's appeal, brought high-quality clubs within the price range of many more players, and raised the standard of play.

Hagen may have been the first sportsman to earn a million dollars in his career. He once stated that he "never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one". Hagen once expressed his creed in these words: "Don't hurry, don't worry, you're only here for a short visit, so be sure to smell the flowers along the way." Gene Sarazen, who was ten years Hagen's junior commented, "All the professionals ... should say a silent thanks to Walter Hagen each time they stretch a check between their fingers. It was Walter who made professional golf what it is." On the notion of golf as a financial endeavor, Hagen wrote in his autobiography, "My game was my business and as a business it demanded constant playing in the championship bracket, for a current title was my selling commodity."[4]

Hagen died in Traverse City, Michigan in 1969. He now rests at the Holy Sepulchre Mausoleum, Southfield, Michigan, next to his grandson. His pall bearers included Arnold Palmer.


Walter Hagen - 1921 PGA Champion

In 2000, Hagen was ranked as the seventh greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[5] Hagen was ranked as the eighth greatest player of all time by Sports Illustrated / Golf Magazine in a major 2010 ranking.

Hagen's major victories:

There is some debate among golf historians as to whether Hagen should actually be credited with 16 major championships, second only to Jack Nicklaus and two ahead of Tiger Woods. (However, counting the U.S. Amateur, which is no longer considered a major championship, Woods's three Amateurs titles gives him a total of 17, three behind Nicklaus's 20.) Hagen captured the Western Open five times (1916, '21, '26, '27, and '32), at a time when the Western Open was considered one of the premier events on the world golf schedule, second only to the U.S. and British Opens.

The concept of the "four modern majors" was not precisely initiated until Arnold Palmer's Masters and U.S. Open wins in 1960; Palmer stated his intent at that time of going for a modern Grand Slam by winning the Open Championship and the PGA Championship that same year; this was taken up by the world's golf media, and has gained increasing credence with time. In Hagen's prime, the Masters had not yet been founded, and the Western Open (the championship of the Western Golf Association) was, by today's definition, a "major", insofar as it was one of four elite tournaments in which most of the top golfers in the world could be counted on to participate each year.

Hagen captained the United States in the first six Ryder Cups, and played on the first five U.S. teams: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935.

Hagen has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the charter class of 1974.

Hagen has been portrayed by Bruce McGill in the 2001 movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, and by British actor Jeremy Northam in the 2004 Bobby Jones biopic Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.

Professional wins

PGA Tour wins (45)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins (30)

(This list is incomplete)

Major championships

Wins (11)

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1914 U.S. Open 2 shot lead +2 (68-74-75-73=290) 1 stroke United States Chick Evans
1919 U.S. Open (2) 5 shot deficit +17 (78-73-75-75=301) Playoff 1 United States Mike Brady
1921 PGA Championship n/a 3 & 2 England Jim Barnes
1922 The Open Championship 2 shot deficit (76-73-79-72=300) 1 stroke England Jim Barnes
1924 The Open Championship (2) Tied for lead (77-73-74-77=301) 1 stroke England Ernest Whitcombe
1924 PGA Championship (2) n/a 2 up England Jim Barnes
1925 PGA Championship (3) n/a 6 & 5 United States William Mehlhorn
1926 PGA Championship (4) n/a 5 & 3 United States Leo Diegel
1927 PGA Championship (5) n/a 1 up United States Joe Turnesa
1928 The Open Championship (3) 1 shot lead (75-73-72-72=292) 2 strokes United States Gene Sarazen
1929 The Open Championship (4) 4 shot lead +12 (75-67-75-75=292) 6 strokes United States Johnny Farrell

Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958
1 Defeated Mike Brady in an 18-hole playoff – Hagen 77 (+6), Brady 78 (+7)

Results timeline

Tournament 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
U.S. Open T4 1 T10 7 NT NT 1
The Open Championship DNP DNP NT NT NT NT NT
Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
U.S. Open 11 T2 5 T18 T4 T5 7 6 T4 T19
The Open Championship T52 T7 1 2 1 DNP T3 DNP 1 1
PGA Championship DNP 1 DNP 2 1 1 1 1 QF SF
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Masters Tournament NYF NYF NYF NYF T13 T15 T11 DNP DNP T33
U.S. Open T17 T7 10 T4 T58 3 T33 DNP DNP DNP
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP T19 DNP DNP DNP T26 DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNQ R32 R32 DNP R32 R64 DNQ DNP DNP R64
Tournament 1940 1941 1942
Masters Tournament WD WD DNP
The Open Championship NT NT NT
PGA Championship R16 DNP DNQ

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
DQ = Disqualified
DNQ = Did not qualify for match play portion
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.

Source for The Masters:

Source for U.S. Open: USGA Championship Database

Source for The Open Championship:

Source for PGA Championship: PGA Championship Media Guide


Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 4
U.S. Open 2 1 1 9 16 20 23 22
The Open Championship 4 1 1 6 7 8 10 10
PGA Championship 5 1 2 9 10 13 15 15
Totals 11 3 4 24 33 44 54 51
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 50 (1913 U.S. Open – 1939 PGA)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 16 (1923 Open Championship – 1929 Open Championship)

See also


  1. "1922 Walter Hagen". The Open. Retrieved October 16, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Golf's Golden Grind: A History of the PGA Tour, by Al Barkow, 1975; The Greatest Game Ever Played, by Mark Frost, 2003
  3. Pasadena Yacht & Country Club "Pasadena Yacht & Country Club" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved October 16, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.
  5. Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest. Retrieved December 5, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Clavin, Tom (2005). Sir Walter: Walter Hagen and the Invention of Professional Golf. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0486-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Frost, Mark (November 3, 2004). The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf. Hyperion. ISBN 978-1-4013-0108-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hagen, Walter; Heck, Margaret Seaton (November 2004) [1956]. The Walter Hagen Story: By the Haig, Himself. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sports Media Group. ISBN 978-1-58726-131-2. OCLC 57312685.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lowe, Stephen R. (August 30, 2004) [2000]. Sir Walter and Mr. Jones: Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, and the Rise Of American Golf. Sports Media Group. ISBN 978-1-58726-187-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Rapoport, Ron (March 16, 2005). The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-47372-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sampson, Curt (1992). The Eternal Summer: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Hogan in 1960, Golf's Golden Year. Dallas: Taylor Publishing. ISBN 978-0-87833-788-0. OCLC 25025891.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links