Golf

U.S. Open countdown: Young, brash Hagen sets a opening-round record in 1914

20th U.S. Open | Aug. 20-21, 1914

Midlothian Country Club, Midlothian, Illinois

Leaderboard

Walter Hagen, United States 68 - 74 - 75 - 73 290
a-Chick Evans, United States 76 - 74 - 71 - 70 291
Fred McLeod, Scotland 78 - 73 - 75 - 71 297
George Sargent, England 74 - 77 - 74 - 72 297
Mike Brady, United States 78 - 72 - 74 - 74 298
James Donaldson, Scotland 72 - 79 - 74 - 73 298
a-Francis Ouimet, United States 69 - 76 - 75 - 78 298
a—denotes amateur

Walter Hagen, a native New Yorker, was brash — very brash. After attending American John McDermott’s win at the U.S. Open in 1912, the 20-year-old pro shop worker returned to tell his friends and family that he was thoroughly unimpressed by the level of play.

Two years later, “Sir Walter” was holding the first of 11 professional major championships.

Despite suffering through a bout of food poisoning, Hagen opened the first round with a 68 — a U.S. Open record at the time. Hagen led the rest of the way, but had to hold off the fast-closing Evans, who was the reigning Western Amateur winner. After Hagen birdied the finishing hole for a tournament-record fourth consecutive time, he registered a one-stroke victory. The hometown hero Evans — battling a severe ankle injury all week — had a chance to tie, but missed a 30-foot putt on the final hole.

Afterward, no one was certain what to expect from Hagen moving forward. He often hit errant drives off the tee, only to be bailed out by superb iron play and clutch putting. Hagen admitted to sportswriter Grantland Rice that he went into each round knowing he would make seven mistakes — and chalked bad swings as such.

Off the course, he displayed extravagant habits, often hiring a chauffeur to drive him to the tournament so he could drink booze. He was always the best-dressed golfer to show up, and he was one of the first professionals to be paid handsomely to endorse golf equipment. Rumor had it he became the sport’s first millionaire. By the time he retired, he had won 75 professional tournaments — 45 coming on the PGA Tour.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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