Walter Hagen Quotes (Plus a Few Quotations About Him)

Walter Hagen is one of the all-time great golfers. The 1920s were his decade, but he won his first majors in the 1910s and won his last PGA Tour title in the 1930s. He was one of the biggest stars in all of sports in the Roarin' '20s and, according to some sports historians, the first professional athlete to become a millionaire.

Which makes one of his quotes — "I never wanted to be a millionaire. I just wanted to live like one" — even better.

"No one remembers who came in second," Hagen would say. And sometimes, arriving to a tournament site, he would ask the other golfers, "Who's going to come in second this week?" Hagen thrived on attention and pressure. At the 1919 U.S. Open, trailing Mike Brady by one stroke on the final hole, Hagen called for Brady to come out of the clubhouse and watch Hagen's attempt at a tying putt. He made the putt, then beat Brady in the playoff.

Another time, facing a 10-foot putt to win a tournament, Hagen said to the crowd, "Miss this little putt for $1,500? I should say not." And he didn't.

"When a man misses his drive, and then misses his second shot, and then wins the hole with a birdie, it gets my goat." — Bobby Jones

Jones' comment about Hagen's famous scrambling ability came after Hagen beat Jones 12-and-11 in a 72-hole exhibition match. Hagen was notorious for hitting poor drives, mediocre approaches, but then chipping close or sinking a great putt. And Hagen had sayings to describe his recovery prowess, too:

  • "Three of those and one of them still count four." (Three refers to his erratic driving and approach play; one refers to his greenside scrambling and putting.)
  • "Make the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look hard."

"All the professionals should say a silent thanks to Walter Hagen each time they stretch a check between their fingers. It was Walter who made professional golf what it is." — Gene Sarazen

Sarazen's comment was reworded by Arnold Palmer at a dinner honoring Hagen when Arnie said to Hagen, "If not for you, Walter, this dinner tonight would be downstairs in the pro shop, not in the ballroom."

Hagen used his showmanship and skill to turn the profession of pro golfer into something respectable, something it was rarely considered prior to Hagen. Among the things Hagen wrote in his autobiography, The Walter Hagen Story, were:

  • "My game was my business and as a business it demanded constant playing in the championship bracket, for a current title was my selling commodity."
  • "Showmanship was needed and happily I possessed a flair for that, too, and I used it."

Hagen's Comments on Playing Golf

  • "It takes six years to make a golfer: three to learn the game, then another three to unlearn all you have learned in the first three years."
  • "You don't have the game you played last year or last week. You only have today's game. It may be far from your best, but it's all you've got. Harden your heart and make the best of it."
  • "I expect to make at least seven mistakes a round, therefore, when I make a bad shot, it's just one of the seven."
  • "Feel at ease, lack worry, and no guessing as you hit the ball."
  • "Give me a man with big hands, big feet and no brains, and I will make a golfer out of him."

Hagen's Outlook on Life

  • "You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."
  • "I got my name in the record books and for every golf ball I hit I got to know someone: caddies, kings, golf fans and even a few phonies."
  • On his 69th birthday: "That's the easiest 69 I ever made."
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