Walter Hagen: The ‘flamboyant’ golfer who ‘poked golf’s aristocracy within the eye’ | CNN


When Walter Hagen gained the PGA Championship for the second yr in a row in 1925, he did what any champion would do: head out to rejoice.

So, he grabbed the well-known Wanamaker Trophy – given to the winner of the major – jumped in a close-by taxi and headed to a nightclub the place he knew his mates had been.

When Hagen arrived on the membership and to keep away from lumbering round with the 27-pound trophy, he paid the taxi driver to drop it off at his resort.

It was the final he noticed of the trophy.

The Wanamaker by no means arrived at his resort, and though Hagen knew he now not had it in his possession, he stored that to himself.

On the subsequent yr’s PGA Championship, when requested to supply the trophy because the returning champion, Hagen mentioned along with his typical bravado: “I’ll win it anyway, so I didn’t carry it.”

Positive sufficient, he did win it. And in 1927, he gained it for the fourth time in a row. It was solely in 1928, when he was knocked out by Leo Diegel, that he was pressured to confess he now not had the trophy in his possession.

A substitute was made, earlier than the unique mysteriously turned up 1931.

Hagen was born right into a “blue-collar household” in 1892 in Rochester, New York, explains Tom Clavin, creator of ‘Sir Walter: Walter Hagen and the Invention of Skilled Golf.’

Hagen’s early days in golf had been spent as a caddie on the Nation Membership of Rochester.

By his mid-teens, Hagen was a proficient participant and was serving to on the professional store on the membership. He made his skilled debut at age 19 on the 1912 Canadian Open.

Hagen plays a shot at Short Hills in Rochester.

Taking part in in his debut main – the 1913 U.S. Open – Hagen shocked many when he completed tied for fourth. However upon his return to Rochester, he got here with tales of mistreatment from the opposite professionals.

“They pushed me off the tee and advised me I may observe once they acquired by way of,” he said.

So he made a promise to them. “I’m going again subsequent yr and win that match.”

And he did simply that.

Hagen in action during the Ryder Cup at Moortown, Leeds in April 1929.

Golf wasn’t the one sport Hagen was proficient at. From an early age, he additionally excelled at baseball.

However his expertise at baseball and blossoming golf profession gave Hagen a dilemma.

“Baseball is a staff sport. Walter preferred the eye to be all on him,” Clavin defined. “So he didn’t need to share the eye with the pitcher or the primary baseman or the catcher.

“I believe a giant a part of it was that he was not solely good at it, in all probability figured he could be higher as a golfer than as a baseball participant, and he may name his personal photographs, so to talk.

“He didn’t must depend upon anyone else. Both he gained as a result of he was higher than everyone else on the sphere, or he misplaced as a result of he wasn’t. And in baseball, you’re kind of depending on the opposite guys on the sphere.”

As Clavin describes, when Hagen was making his first steps in golf, it was a sport in its nascent phases within the US. And Hagen, being an aspiring skilled, noticed an enormous potential for progress, each for the sport and for himself.

Hagen with his wife aboard the 'Aquitania' at Southampton in May 1923.

His professionalism irked many in golf.

“He kind of poked the aristocracy within the eye. And there have been lots of people within the aristocracy who actually despised Walter Hagen due to what he represented,” Clavin defined.

“He represented the barbarians on the gate of golf, and he took that as motivation, they usually despised him much more when he stored successful.”

With loads of disposal earnings, Hagen was eager to benefit from the fruits of his labour.

He additionally trie marriage briefly, however Clavin says that it “didn’t work out very properly.”

On account of his “extravagant way of life” decisions, as Clavin describes it, successful turned a necessity.

“He needed to win that first-place purse, he needed to go on these paid excursions, he needed to do these endorsement offers and endorse cigarettes and different merchandise,” mentioned Clavin.

“And so clearly, if he had not been capable of win as usually as he did, he would have needed to in some unspecified time in the future face the truth of: ‘I can’t dwell the life-style as a result of I merely can’t afford it.’”

Throughout his illustrious profession, Hagen gained 11 main titles – essentially the most ever on the time – in addition to 45 PGA Tour victories.

Hagen, holding the Claret Jug, on the 1st tee during an exhibition match with Joe Kirkwood at Llanwern, South Wales in 1937.

What’s much more exceptional is that the Masters had not even been based till properly after Hagen’s peak.

Lots of the tales which can be recounted about Hagen are tales of his hitting the city and turning up trying raveled for the play the next day.

Nonetheless, Clavin believes that Hagen wouldn’t really exit the evening earlier than and was making an attempt to decrease the guard of his opponents. Clavin calls Hagen “the primary nice sports activities psychologist.”

“For instance, suppose it was a significant match, he would have his limousine present up and he would get out of the limousine in a rumpled tuxedo,” Clavin mentioned.

“So everyone would assume: ‘Oh, poor Walter, he’s in all probability very hungover. He’s not going to be an element at the moment.’ Then he’d go into the locker room and alter and are available out to the primary tee and strike one proper down the center of the green.

“He knew earlier than he even hit his first ball, he figured: ‘I’m a winner and these guys are going to be losers as a result of they’re considerably intimidated by me. They’ll’t determine me out.’ He had a psychological benefit that was unmatched by his rivals on the time.”

Hagen, winner of the British Open Golf Championship at Hoylake, kissing his wife.

Hagen earned favor along with his fellow golfers by all the time choosing up the invoice within the bar. His trailblazing nature when it got here to proving golf a dependable income stream additionally endured himself to others.

His rivalry with Bobby Jones on the time additionally did rather a lot to popularize the game, the pair touring the world to compete in money-making, one-on-one competitions.

They each made endorsing golf tools for gamers a extra commonplace endeavor and one thing which helped to make the game extra accessible for all.

Hagen (right) stands with Gene Sarazen (left) on board the RMS Aquitania on arrrival in Southampton, June 21, 1933.

Gene Sarazen, who was 10 years youthful than Hagen and gained seven majors in his profession, said golfers ought to thank Hagen for his influence on the game.

“All of the professionals … ought to say a silent due to Walter Hagen every time they stretch a test between their fingers. It was Walter who made skilled golf what it’s.”

Not solely that, he performed a significant half within the institution of the Ryder Cup, that includes within the early editions of it and being a six-time captain of the US staff, successful it 4 time and dropping simply twice.

Hagen was a pioneer in golf's professionalization.

And so, given all Hagen did for the game, Clavin believes it’s no exaggeration to name him the “father of professional golf.”

“Walter Hagen was very a lot conscious of what a pioneer he was. He may look across the panorama and understand that there have been only a few skilled golfers, however of these few golfers, he was essentially the most profitable one.

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“And so he understood the duty he needed to proceed to play properly and never even play properly for his personal functions to win the match purses, however to kind of be like this Johnny Appleseed of golf; he did go on these world excursions, which no one else had performed earlier than.

“Not Bobby Jones, not anyone else. To go on these world excursions greater than as soon as that took him to Africa, took him to Asia, took him to Europe clearly, took him to just about each continent besides Antarctica to play these exhibition matches and unfold the phrase of golf and to introduce golf to nations that had by no means even had it.”

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