Walter Hagen

Walter Hagen

Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
Death 5 Oct 1969 (aged 76)
Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, USA
Burial Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
Plot Mausoleum, Section 101-W, Crypt A-3
Memorial ID 432 · View Source
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Hall of Fame Professional Golfer. The first practitioner of his sport to become wealthy, he combined talent and hard work with a large dose of flash and style to help create the modern game. The child of a poor family he was raised in Upstate New York and supplemented his family's income by working as a caddy at the Country Club of Rochester; a skilled player by his mid teens, he began giving lessons and competing in local events then in 1912 entered his first significant tournament, the Canadian Open. In Walter's time golf professionals were considered to be of low class and were usually not allowed to enter the clubhouses of the courses where tournaments were played, though amateurs were presumed to be gentlemen and were granted full access. (Indeed, in England amateur golfers are still designated "Mr." while professionals are referred to by their given names). Walter found this state of affairs unacceptable and was to develop several ways of making the clubs that slighted him uncomfortable, hiring fancy cars in which he surrounded himself with flocks of pretty girls and which he made sure were parked as conspicuously as possible. His game itself was far from perfect as he had an obvious sway in his swing which led him to make more bad shots than any other great golfer; Walter allowed himself seven mistakes per round and was able to shrug-off each one and to compensate for it with a spectacular effort on the next shot. The first of his 11 wins in "major" campionships came in the 1914 U.S. Open at Midlothian, Illinois, after which he began playing exhibitions as prize money was not then what it would one day become. (He only took home $300 for his first Open). Walter repeated as U.S. Open champion in 1919, captured the British Open in 1922, 1924, 1928, and 1929, and won the PGA Championship five times, a total later matched by Jack Nicklaus, in 1922 and from 1924 thru 1927. The PGA was then conducted in the match play format at which Walter was supreme, leading to his dominance in the event. Over the course of his career he won 45 PGA Tour events, the last in 1936, and was Ryder Cup captain six times; in later years he pretty much stuck to the exhibitions for which he was well paid and at which he never failed to put on a good show. Though he made a great deal of money he spent it as fast as he got it, saying that he "didn't want to be a millionaire, just to live like one"; after his competitive days were over he worked for Wilson in golf equipment design (as Bobby Jones did with Spalding), creating affordable top-quality clubs that were marketed under his name and was later to spin-off his own Michigan-based company. Walter published a 1956 autobiography, lived out his days in Traverse City, Michigan, and died of cancer. Posthumously elected to the World Golf Hall-of-Fame in 1974, he was named the seventh greatest golfer of all time by "Golf Digest" and placed eighth on the "Sports Illustrated" list. On the silver screen he was portrayed by Bruce McGill in 2001's "The Legend of Bagger Vance", a fantasy partially based on his exhibition matches with Mr. Jones, and by Jeremy Northam in the 2004 biopic "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius". Today Walter Hagen clubs are marketed by Dick's Sporting Goods. Of his philosophy of life Walter memorably said "You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way".

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 432
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Walter Hagen (21 Dec 1892–5 Oct 1969), Find a Grave Memorial no. 432, citing Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .