Walter Charles Hagen was born December 21, 1892 and became a major player in golf during the first half of the 1900s. His skills on the green led him to become known as the father of professional golf. His name is linked in with other professional golfers, such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Ben Hogan.
Hagen’s Illustrious Career
As the first native-born American to win The Open Championship in 1922, Hagen also won the US Open twice and the PGA Championship five times to tie a record. He had a total of 45 PGA wins during his career.
Hagen was a golfer who worked his way up from his start as a caddie for the Country Club of Rochester. While earning money to help out his family, he also got the opportunity to play during off-peak times, which helped him develop his love for the game. By his mid-teens, he was quite an expert player and even gave lessons to members of the club.
Hagen made his professional debut at the Canadian Open in 1912 when he was 19 years old. He placed 11th in that event. The next year, he placed fourth in the US Open at Brookline. At this event, other golfers mistreated him, but he vowed to win the US Open and did the following year in 1914.
Hagen has been recognized as one of the greats, ranked number seven by Golf Digest and eighth by Sports Illustrated. Along with two wins in the US Open, three wins in the British Open, and five wins in the PGA Championship, Hagen also won two other events that were considered major championships at the time. He won the Western Open five times and six Ryder Cups titles.
Bringing Attention to Golf
Along with his skill, one of the things that Hagen is most known for was his ability to bring attention to golf as a professional golfer. Many clubs denied entrance to golfers, viewing them as amateurs. He was the first professional to tour with no affiliation to a club, which was unheard of at the time. He became president of what would later be known as the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club.
While earning money as a player, Hagen also made a significant income as endorser of golf equipment. He helped to design clubs for Wilson Sports, which would carry his name. It was these products with Wilson Sports that would produce matched sets of irons, which were among the first of their kind. Another significant milestone for Hagen was that he was the first professional golfer to earn a million dollars for his play.
Hagen was also known for his distinct and dashing style, which he claimed was a result of not wanting to be a millionaire but to live like one. He wore tailored clothing with bright colors and expensive fabrics, which drew attention. His exhibition matches were played all around the world and considered to be more in demand and more lucrative than his tournaments. Many other golfers credit him with bringing golf to a new level as a sport and career.