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Chapter 7. A Week to Remember

Shortly after the 1933 Open I was to witness at first hand the way that Walter Hagen dealt with the attitude to professional golfers in Britain at that time. On the Monday after the Open the champion, Shute, came to Birmingham with Hagen, four times Open Champion himself, to play a match against Charlie Ward and me, which had been arranged by the Moseley club. (Walter played in a lot of exhibition matches; around 1500 in 11 years; his manager, Bob Harlow, the founder of Golf World, collected the money in a suitcase. A typical fee was the £60 paid to Hagen and Joe Kirkwood for an exhibition at Penrith in 1937. Three hundred Cumberland golf fans attended, but the club made a loss of £8.16s). At Moseley a special luncheon was attended by dignitaries, including. the ‘top brass’ of the golf club and the local authority, who were to sit at the top table with the two famous American golfers. Charlie and I were invited, but seated at a side table well away from the official party.

The party arrived and were being ushered to their table, when Walter Hagen spotted us and came over to ask if we were the boys they were playing; He then pulled up a chair and chatted to us, keeping the main guests waiting. After a while a waiter was sent over to ask Mr Hagen if he would join them. His reply was a somewhat impatient “I’ll be there in a minute”. When several more minutes had elapsed the waiter was sent over again to inform him that the party was waiting to start lunch. “OK”, said Hagen, “bring mine over here – I’ll have it with these boys”. There were some glowering faces on the big table, but we had a most enjoyable meal. The Haig was a great de-bunker and his view on separate dining and changing facilities for pros was well known; there were many stories of him ‘thumbing his nose’. At George Duncan’s Open at Deal in 1920 and two years later at Royal St George’s, when he won his first Open, he was refused clubhouse facilities so he hired a huge Austro-Daimler limousine to act as changing room and parked it as close as possible to the clubhouse. At Sandwich the car was filled with food from the Ritz for impromptu picnics and parties in between his winning rounds; it was also reported that on one occasion he hired an aircraft to fly himself and his friends to an inn for their meals. When he was second to Arthur Havers at Troon in 1923, he declined the invitation to the presentation in the clubhouse because none of the professionals had been allowed to enter it during the week. He issued his own invitation to spectators to join him in the pub where he was staying.

Walter Hagen, "The Haig"

“Who’s going to be second”, the self assured Hagen would ask on the first tee and that day it was us. The American’s reeled off a string of birdies, just how many they had I don’t remember, but it was a lot. Walter started with two, nearly getting the third hole-in-one of his life at the 2nd, and I can recall that Denny Shute holed out from a bunker. He was a very focused player and spoke to me only once – when we met on the first tee. This was in stark contrast to Hagen, who chatted with his partners and the fans as readily as Lee Trevino does today. Bobby Jones had this to say about Hagen, explaining why he loved to play with him: “He goes along, chin up, smiling away, never grousing about his luck, playing the ball as he finds it”. Walter had been influenced by Harry