Walter Hagen is renowned as one of the most iconic golfers of all time. Even today, his 11-streak win is only third to Jack Nicklaus (who reached 18) and Tiger Woods (who enjoys 15). To top it off, he created many of the simple golf swing tips we know today, having performed in numerous exhibition matches.
If you’re a die-hard Walter Hagen fan, then you probably already know much about him. Still, you might miss a few facts here and there. So to make sure, check out the ten things you might not know about Walter Hagen below.
He Learned Golf By Working as a Caddie
Born to a working-class family, Walter Hagen had to work during his pre-teens to help his parents make ends meet. Luckily, he landed a job as a caddie at the Country Club of Rochester. There, he earned 10 cents per round, and he was even tipped with an extra five cents every now and then.
It’s safe to assume that this is where his love for golf was also born, for Walter began practicing at the club every chance he got. Thanks to Alfred Ricketts who was frequenting the course at the time, he managed to develop his skill. By his mid-teens, he’s already considered an expert golfer, even giving lessons and some simple golf swing tips to club members.
He Almost Became a Baseball Player
Aside from golf, Walter Hagen was also highly skilled at baseball. In fact, he was supposed to try out for the Philadelphia Phillies during his 20’s. However, Hagen promised to win the 1914 U.S. Open after being treated badly by the other golfers during the previous one. Needless to say that he missed his baseball tryout that year.
Instead, Walter Hagen put all his focus on winning the 1914 U.S. Open. And from the first through the final round, he managed to win first place, earning him his first major championship.
He Made Golf More Respectable
During the early 20th century, people didn’t think highly of golf. This is especially true in Great Britain, where Walter Hagen began his career. Golfers aren’t allowed access to most clubhouses’ facilities, with some even refusing them entry via the front door. At one point, Hagen even hired a Pierce-Arrow car just so he can have a dressing room, as the clubhouse won’t let him use any of theirs.
Thanks to his growing popularity and victories, Walter Hagen managed to change all that. On one occasion, he refused to enter a clubhouse to claim his prize due to being denied entry earlier. It was only after his brazen entrance at the 1914 Midlothian Open when the no-entry policy for golfers was permanently removed.
He Was the First Ever Millionaire Golfer
Aside from playing exhibition matches, Walter Hagen spent his time endorsing golf equipment. He helped design many of the irons sold at Wilson Sports during that time, similar to what Bobby Jones did for Spalding company.
Thanks to these endeavors, Walter Hagen became the first golfer to earn a million dollars during his career. As an added bonus, his equipment helped make golf even more popular, especially since they come in more affordable prices. When asked about his millionaire status, Hagen was both ecstatic and passive, saying that he “never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one”.
He Was a Very Stylish Golfer
But Walter Hagen wasn’t just notable for fighting for goler equality, popularizing the sport, and simple golf swing tips. He was also responsible for influencing the attire donned while at the course.
Walter Hagen appeared in many of his exhibition matches wearing eye-catching, perfectly tailored outfits that made headlines. He carried himself in a composed and confident manner as well, setting an example for countless golfers for years to come. His sense of style eventually helped him become the first sportsman to be included on the Best Dressed American list.
He Has Many Quotable Lines
As one of the most popular golfers of his time, Walter Hagen is no stranger to interviews. In fact, many of the words he left further cemented his legacy.
Aside from setting the standard to how we play golf today, many of his words serve as inspiration to everyone who needs life motivations. Some of his most memorable quotes include:
- “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
- “No one remembers who came in second.”
- “There is no tragedy in missing a putt, no matter how short. All have erred in this respect.”
- “Make the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look hard.”
- “My dear, did you ever stop to think what a wonderful bunker you would make?”
He Never Had to Putt an 18th Green Thrice
With 45 PGA Tour wins and 11 major championships under his belt, you’d think Walter Hagen would be satisfied. But no, he has to sink his 18th holes in less than three putts.
Take his victory at the 1914 U.S. Open for example. With Evans’ chip falling a bit short, Hagen made a birdie on the 18th hole (his fourth one during that day) to secure the championship. To this day, nobody has performed a similar feat. Better yet, look at his four-year streak during the tournaments from 1924 to 1927, where he managed to prevail during the final rounds without putting thrice.
He Was Portrayed Twice in Movies
Lastly, Walter Hagen was portrayed in two different films. The first is The Legend of Bagger Vance, where a fictional version of Hagen was played by Bruce McGill. In the movie, Hagen and Bobby Jones compete against the film’s protagonist Rannulph Junuh, with the tournament eventually ending in a gentlemanly three-way tie.
Meanwhile, the 2004 film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius also saw Hagen, this time played by Jeremy Northam. Though mainly about Jones, this film nevertheless showcases Jones’ and Hagen’s rivalry.
Play Golf Like Walter Hagen
Walter Hagen is undoubtedly one of the best golf players that ever lived. By knowing these facts, you’ll be able to honor his memory, as well as get inspired to try out golf yourself. So best whip out your golf clubs or buy one if you haven’t yet, then start trying out those simple golf swing tips Hagen popularized.