Walter Hagen (1892 – 1969)
Generally regarded as the greatest match player ever, “The Haig” won five PGA Championships at match play, four in a row from 1924-1927 with a string of 22 consecutive match-play victories. He also won most of the challenge matches he played against the top players of his day, including a 12 and 11 defeat of Bobby Jones in a 72-hole match in 1926. Hagen also won the British Open four times and the US Open twice from 1914 to 1929. After his second US Open victory in 1919, he became the world’s first full-time tournament professional and was the first to earn more than $1 million playing the game. Because of his spirit for the game and lavish lifestyle, he is credited with doing more than anyone else to raise the societal status of the golf professional.
Walter Hagen was a great golfer and the player most responsible for elevating professional golf into a major sport. Hagen’s insistence on first-class treatment at tournaments raised the stature of professional golfers during a time when amateur players dominated the game. His popularity greatly contributed to making golf a spectator sport.
Hagen’s skill as a player combined with his showmanship and colourful lifestyle made him golf’s first celebrity. Hagen sometimes arrived for a match in a chauffeur-driven limousine and wearing a tuxedo. He was the first golfer to earn more than a million dollars in tournaments and exhibitions and the first player to market golf equipment bearing his name.
Walter Charles Hagen was born in Rochester, New York. Between 1914 and 1929, he won 11 major tournaments. He won the United States Open in 1914 and 1919; the British Open in 1922, 1924, 1928, and 1929; and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) tournament in 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927.