Walter Hagen

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Walter Hagen
Hagen in 1914
Personal information
Full nameWalter Charles Hagen
NicknameSir Walter, The Haig
Born(1892-12-21)December 21, 1892
Rochester, New York
DiedOctober 6, 1969(1969-10-06) (aged 76)
Traverse City, Michigan
Height5 ft 10.5 in (1.79 m)
Weight185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st)
Sporting nationality United States
ResidenceTraverse City, Michigan
SpouseEdna Crosby Straus
(m. 1923–37)
Margaret Johnson
(m. 1917–21)
ChildrenWalter Jr. (1918–82)
Turned professional1912
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Professional wins58
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour45 (Tied 8th all time)
Best results in major championships
(wins: 11)
Masters TournamentT11: 1936
PGA ChampionshipWon: 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927
U.S. OpenWon: 1914, 1919
The Open ChampionshipWon: 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame1974 (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.[1] His tally of 11 professional majors is third behind Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (15). Known as the "father of professional golf," he brought publicity, prestige, big prize money, and lucrative endorsements to the sport.[2] Hagen is rated one of the greatest golfers ever.[3]

Hagen won the U.S. Open twice, and in 1922 he became the first native-born American to win The Open Championship, and won the Claret Jug three more times.[4] He also won the PGA Championship a record-tying five times (all in match play), 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[edit]

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 and the only son.

Hagen developed his golf game at the Country Club of Rochester, beginning as a caddie, and earned money to help support his family from pre-teen age. He earned ten cents per round and was occasionally tipped another five cents.[5] Hagen played golf at every chance he got; caddie access to the course was limited to off-peak times, as it was elsewhere in the U.S. during that era. Hagen, with assistance from head professional Alfred Ricketts,[5] 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 followed up with a surprise 4th place showing at the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline where he stated that he was treated badly by the other professionals who knew nothing about him. Hagen said "they pushed me off the tee and told me I could practice when they were through". He vowed to play in the 1914 U.S. Open and "win it", and he did exactly that.[6]

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.[7]

Raises stature of golf professionals[edit]

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 Great Britain, 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.[8] On another occasion, he refused to enter a clubhouse to claim his prize because he had earlier been denied entrance. In the 1914 Midlothian Open he brazenly entered the clubhouse and mingled with the rich members—they were delighted and the episode permanently opened the doors.[9] The 1920 U.S. Open in Toledo 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 1924, Hagen was president and co-owner of the Bear Creek Golf and Country Club associated with Jack Taylor's Pasadena-On-The-Gulf development in St. Petersburg, Florida. Due to influence from the public, the name was changed to the Boca Ciega Golf and Country Club and ultimately the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club.[10][11]

Style, wealth[edit]

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 was the first golfer to earn a million dollars in his career.[12] He said 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."[13]


Hagen battled throat cancer for over four years and had several operations.[1][14] Two years before his death, he was honored with a testimonial dinner in August 1967 in Traverse City, Michigan, attended by major champions Arnold Palmer and Cary Middlecoff.[15] A month earlier at the PGA Championship in Colorado, he expressed support for Palmer, saying he was a member of "Arnie's Army."[16]

Hagen died in 1969 at age 76 at his home in Traverse City,[1] and now rests at the Holy Sepulchre Mausoleum in Southfield, Michigan,[17] next to his grandson. His pall bearers included Palmer.[18]


1921 PGA Champion

In 2000, Hagen was ranked as the seventh greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[19] Hagen was ranked as the eighth greatest player of all time by Sports Illustrated / Golf Magazine in a major 2010 ranking.

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 one ahead of Tiger Woods. (However, counting the U.S. Amateur, which is no longer considered a major championship, Woods' three U.S. Amateurs titles give him a total of 18, two behind Nicklaus's 20.) Hagen captured the Western Open five times (1916, 1921, 1926, 1927, and 1932), 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.

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 (58)[edit]

PGA Tour wins (45)[edit]

Hagen and Horton Smith in 1929

Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins (13)[edit]

(This list is incomplete)

Major championships[edit]

Wins (11)[edit]

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[edit]

Tournament 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
U.S. Open T4 1 T10 7 NT NT 1
The Open Championship 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 T53 T6 1 2 1 T3 1 1
PGA Championship 1 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 T33
U.S. Open T17 T7 10 T4 T58 3 T33
The Open Championship T22 T26
PGA Championship DNQ R32 R32 R32 R64 DNQ R64
Tournament 1940 1941 1942
Masters Tournament WD WD
U.S. Open DQ
The Open Championship NT NT NT
PGA Championship R16 DNQ
  Top 10
  Did not play

NYF = tournament not yet founded
NT = no tournament
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

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 10 16 20 23 22
The Open Championship 4 1 1 6 7 8 10 10
PGA Championship 5 1 2 9 10 13 18 15
Totals 11 3 4 25 33 44 57 51
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 31 (1913 U.S. Open – 1930 U.S. Open)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 15 (1923 PGA Championship – 1929 Open Championship)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Walter Hagen dies". Nashua Telegraph. New Hampshire. Associated Press. October 6, 1969. p. 16.
  2. ^ Murry R. Nelson, ed., Encyclopedia of Sports in America: A History from Foot Races to Extreme Sports' (2009) 1:179–80.
  3. ^ Auclair, T.J. (August 12, 2018). "15 Greatest Golfers of All Time". PGA of America. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  4. ^ "1922 Walter Hagen". The Open. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Great Athletes. Vol. 11. Salem Press. 2009.
  6. ^ "Through Half a Century – Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of The Country Club of Rochester" (PDF). p. 21.
  7. ^ Golf's Golden Grind: A History of the PGA Tour, by Al Barkow, 1975; The Greatest Game Ever Played, by Mark Frost, 2003
  8. ^ Grimsley, Will (August 7, 1980). "Pros toast Walter Hagen". Sumter Daily Item. South Carolina. Associated Press. p. 2B.
  9. ^ Nelson, p 180.
  10. ^ "Golfers are invited to meet Mr. Hagen". St. Petersburg Times. March 21, 1924.
  11. ^ "Pasadena Editorial". St. Petersburg Times. November 14, 1924.
  12. ^ Houck, 1999
  13. ^ The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.
  14. ^ "Walter Hagen winning biggest bout of life". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. Associated Press. July 29, 1965. p. 9.
  15. ^ "Walter Hagen testimonial attended by 250 persons". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. Associated Press. August 15, 1967. p. 9.
  16. ^ Grimsley, Will (July 22, 1967). "Walter Hagen is member of Arnie Palmer's Army". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. p. 7.
  17. ^ "Hagen's burial will mark end of a legend". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. Associated Press. October 7, 1969. p. 1C.
  18. ^ "Arnie to return". Owosso Argus-Press. Michigan. Associated Press. October 10, 1969. p. 15.
  19. ^ Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2007.
  20. ^ "Hagen wins $500 on Bellevue links". New York Herald. September 23, 1920. p. 14 – via
  21. ^ Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 8/15/1914 p. 14

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]