Golfer Walter Hagen on Being Present

Golfer Walter Hagen on Being Present  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of PBA Galleries.

Golf pro Walter Hagen stood in the locker room casually shaving while Pres. Warren Harding waited for him on the first tee.  It was the 1921 U.S. Open at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Sir Walter, as he was called, had no problem keeping the President of the United States waiting.

I expect to make seven mistakes a round. Therefore, when I make a bad shot, I don’t worry about it. It’s just one of those seven.
— Walter Hagen

The golfer reeked confidence and being number two on the golf course held no interest to him.  He won the 1914 U.S. Open and also the 1919 Open.  From 1921 to 1929, he added five PGA Championships and four British Opens to his record.   In 1922 he was the first native-born American to win the British Open.

Walter seemed easy going enough but on the golf course there was a shrewd, intensely focused way of being behind that demeanor.  You just couldn’t rattle the guy.  That alone was enough to shake up his competitors. 

“I expect to make seven mistakes a round. Therefore, when I make a bad shot, I don't worry about it.  It's just one of those seven,” he said. 

Walter understood how to deal with disappointment on the course.  He played the game moment by moment with little or no baggage leftover from the last shot.  And he didn’t like being without a golf title. 

On the first tee of a tournament he would typically look around and say, “Well, who’s going to be second.”  He acted like he was number one all the time.  And he often was.  Just his presence on the course was enough to bring in the crowds.  He was the first golf superstar. 

If he did lose a match the only way you could tell he was disappointed observed one player was by how quickly he downed his drinks in the locker room afterwards. 

In his silk shirts, soft tweed slacks and two-tone shoes Hagen was a show-stopper on the golf course.  He loved to party and showed up to play his 1st hole one morning after a night on the town wearing his tuxedo and patent-leather shoes.  Then he changed into his golf spikes which his caddie-chauffeur, Spec Hammond had been wearing for him.    

Walter was born on Dec, 21, 1892 in Rochester, New York.  He started out as a caddy at the Country Club of Rochester and used some of the money to help support his family.  In his spare time he played golf as much as he could and made his professional debut in 1912 at age 20.

He also made money endorsing golf equipment and played a big part in helping to design clubs for Wilson Sports.  Walter was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.  In 2000, he was ranked as the seventh greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.

He died in 1969.

On Feb. 3, PBA Galleries, San Francisco, featured several Walter Hagen lots in its Fine Golf Books & Memorabilia auction.  

Walter Hagen

Photo; taken by George Pietzcker; signed by the photographer; circa 1930; 13 inches by 10 ¼ inches;  $1,800.  

Golf Club; one-of-a-kind putter designed by and made for Walter; stamped Walter Hagen on top of the head; 35 inches long;  $2,280.

Other Golf Memorabilia

Golf Book; A Day’s Golf at Leeds Castle; very scarce; includes 9 original photos; May 15, 1934;  $1.320.

The Book of St. Andrews Links; one of the few primary sources of information about the course; contains first published color pull-out plan of the course;1898;  $2,040.

Photo; Bobby Jones Taking Swing; signed and inscribed by Jones; 37 inches by 32 inches framed;  $3,000.   

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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