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Walter Hagen

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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 (15). Hagen is widely considered one of the greatest golfers ever.
Hagen won the U.S. Open twice, and in 1922 he became the first native-born American to win the British Open, and won the Claret Jug three more times. 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. The Masters Tournament, the newest major, was established in 1934, after his prime.

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 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. 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, 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.
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.Golf's Golden Grind: A History of the PGA Tour, by Al Barkow, 1975; The Greatest Game Ever Played, by Mark Frost, 2003

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 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 Golf and Country Club.

Style, wealth

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."The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.

Death

Hagen battled throat cancer for over four years and had several operations. Two years before his death, he was honored with a testimonial dinner in in Traverse City, Michigan, attended by major champions Arnold Palmer and Cary Middlecoff. A month earlier at the PGA Championship in Colorado, he admitted to being a fan of Palmer's, a member of "Arnie's Army."
Hagen died in 1969 at age 76 at his home in Traverse City, and now rests at the Holy Sepulchre Mausoleum in Southfield, Michigan, next to his grandson. His pall bearers included Palmer.

Legacy


In 2000, Hagen was ranked as the seventh greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine. Hagen was ranked as the eighth greatest player of all time by Sports Illustrated / Golf Magazine in a major 2010 ranking.
Major victories:
  • U.S. Open: 1914, 1919
  • British Open: 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929
  • PGA Championship: 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927
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 gives 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.
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 (57)

PGA Tour wins (45)

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-07807, Berlin, Golfmeisterschaften.jpg thumb210pxHagen and Horton Smith in 1929
  • 1914 (1) U.S. Open
  • 1916 (3) Metropolitan Open, Shawnee Open, Western Open
  • 1918 (1) North and South Open
  • 1919 (2) U.S. Open, Metropolitan Open
  • 1920 (3) Florida West Coast Open, Metropolitan Open, Bellevue C.C. Open
  • 1921 (2) Western Open, PGA Championship
  • 1922 (4) Deland Open Championship, Florida West Coast Open, White Sulphur Springs Open, British Open
  • 1923 (5) Texas Open, Florida West Coast Open, Asheville-Biltmore Open Championship, North and South Open, Kansas Mid-Continent Pro Championship (tie with Joe Kirkwood, Sr.)
  • 1924 (5) North and South Open, Metropolitan PGA, British Open, PGA Championship, Princess Anne C.C. Open
  • 1925 (1) PGA Championship
  • 1926 (4) Florida West Coast Open, Eastern Open Championship, Western Open, PGA Championship
  • 1927 (2) Western Open, PGA Championship
  • 1928 (2) British Open, Long Beach Open (December)
  • 1929 (3) Miami International Four-Ball (with Leo Diegel), British Open, Great Lakes Open
  • 1931 (2) Coral Gables Open (tie with Henry Ciuci), Canadian Open
  • 1932 (2) Western Open, St. Louis Open
  • 1933 (1) Tournament of the Gardens Open
  • 1935 (1) Gasparilla Open-Tampa
  • 1936 (1) Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (with Ky Laffoon)
Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins (12)

(This list is incomplete)
  • 1914 Pinehurst Amateur-Pro
  • 1915 Massachusetts Open, California State Open, Panama Exposition Open
  • 1920 French Open
  • 1921 Michigan Open
  • 1922 New York Open
  • 1923 Long Beach Open
  • 1924 Belgian Open
  • 1929 Virginia Beach Open
  • 1930 Michigan PGA Championship
  • 1931 Michigan PGA Championship

Major championships

Wins (11)

{cellspacing="0" border="1"
-
!align="left"Tournament
!1913
!1914
!1915
!1916
!1917
!1918
!1919
-
align=leftU.S. Open
T4
1
T10
7
NT
NT
1
-
align=leftThe Open Championship
NT
NT
NT
NT
NT
-
align=leftPGA Championship
NYF
NYF
NYF
SF
NT
NT
{ cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0" border="1"
-
!align="left"Tournament
!1920
!1921
!1922
!1923
!1924
!1925
!1926
!1927
!1928
!1929
-
align=leftU.S. Open
11
T2
5
T18
T4
T5
7
6
T4
T19
-
align=leftThe Open Championship
T53
T6
1
2
1
T3
1
1
-
align=leftPGA Championship
1
2
1
1
1
1
QF
SF
{ cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0" border="1"
-
!align="left"Tournament
!1930
!1931
!1932
!1933
!1934
!1935
!1936
!1937
!1938
!1939
-
align=leftMasters Tournament
NYF
NYF
NYF
NYF
T13
T15
T11
T33
-
align=leftU.S. Open
T17
T7
10
T4
T58
3
T33
-
align=leftThe Open Championship
T22
T26
-
align=leftPGA Championship
DNQ
R32
R32
R32
R64
DNQ
R64
{ cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0" border="1"
-
!align="left"Tournament
!1940
!1941
!1942
-
align=leftMasters Tournament
WD
WD
-
align=leftU.S. Open
DQ
-
align=leftThe Open Championship
NT
NT
NT
-
align=leftPGA Championship
R16
DNQ
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: www.masters.com
Source for U.S. Open: USGA Championship Database
Source for The Open Championship: www.opengolf.com
Source for PGA Championship: PGA Championship Media Guide

Summary

{ class=wikitable style=text-align:center
!Tournament !! Wins !! 2nd !! 3rd !! Top-5 !! Top-10 !! Top-25 !! Events !! Cuts made
-
align=leftMasters Tournament 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 4
-
align=leftU.S. Open 2 1 1 10 16 20 23 22
-
align=leftThe Open Championship 4 1 1 6 7 8 10 10
-
align=leftPGA 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

  • List of golfers with most PGA Tour wins
  • List of men's major championships winning golfers
  • List of golfers with most wins in one PGA Tour event

Further reading







  • External links

    • World Golf Hall of Fame
    • Walter Hagen's Home
    • Detroit Athletic Co. – Like Gatsby, Michigan golfing legend Hagen lived a glamorous life
    {{navboxestitle=Walter Hagen in the major championships
    list1=
    {{navboxestitle=Walter Hagen in the Ryder Cup
    list1=
    Category:American male golfers
    Category:PGA Tour golfers
    Category:Winners of men's major golf championships
    Category:Ryder Cup competitors for the United States
    Category:World Golf Hall of Fame inductees
    Category:Golfers from New York (state)
    Category:Golfers from Michigan
    Category:Sportspeople from Rochester, New York
    Category:American people of German descent
    Category:1892 births
    Category:1969 deaths
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