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Sir Walter: Walter Hagen and the Invention of Professional Golf Hardcover – February 15, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although the claim that Hagen "invented professional golf" is a stretch, the five-time PGA Championship winner undoubtedly influenced the sport. Hagen (1892–1969) grew up poor in Rochester, N.Y., but got a 10-cents-an-hour job at a local golf course when he was eight. Watching the men he caddied for taught him how to play the game as well as how to read people and greens, skills he quickly mastered. Journalist Clavin deftly shows how Hagen's success (by the time he was 30, he'd won national championships in the U.S., Great Britain and France) and his showman's personality inspired the 1920s boom in American golf course building, revolutionized the public's perception of the game and even led to the creation of the PGA. Clavin infuses his narrative with impressive facts: Hagen was the first player to use a tee (previously, golfers had hit their ball off a tiny mound of sand), the first golfer to start his own line of clubs and balls and the first person to stand up against the inferior treatment of professional golfers in comparison with their amateur counterparts. Clavin also captivatingly portrays Hagen's personal life, depicting him as a fun-loving sharp dresser with a carefree personality who could paint the town red at night and rule the greens during the day.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Professional golfers often give credit to Arnold Palmer for turning the sport into the big-money spectacle it is today. That's all true, but Tiger Woods and company should also tip their logo-bedecked hats to Walter Hagen, who, as Clavin makes clear in this long-overdue biography, almost single-handedly created the idea of the golf pro as sports star. When Hagen, a working-class boy from Rochester, New York, decided to make his living winning golf tournaments, the sport was reserved for well-bred amateurs like Bobby Jones. Professionals weren't allowed in the clubhouses at the courses where tournaments were held. Clavin carefully sets that context and then shows how Hagen changed it all. It was the Roaring Twenties, and the Haig, as he came to be called, quickly established himself as the Babe Ruth of golf: partying all night, arriving at the course in his tux, and changing clothes in his limousine. The public loved it, and with on-course heroics to match off-course flamboyance, Hagen soon pried open the clubhouse doors. A fascinating slice of golf history that has the panache of a Preston Sturges movie. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; New Ed edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743204867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743204866
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Allen F. Richardson on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, and an important American chronicle as well. Noted editor, journalist and golf writer Tom Clavin has gone where few have in the past, finally providing us with a stylish and authoritative biography of the great Walter Hagen, and of that man's lasting impact on the sport, both domestically and on the international stage. In doing so, Clavin has restored "The Haig" to his rightful place in the pantheon of golfing greats and as the true pioneer of American professional golf.

For anyone even remotely interested in the royal and ancient game, this book is a must and a joy. But for anyone who simply loves a good read, and one about a compelling personality-in other words, the type of sportsman who transcends his sport-this is also a book certainly worth the time and entertainment value.

Clearly, Clavin has a certain affection for this subject, but he also brings the cool eye of the practiced reporter to the tale, separating the caricature of "Sir Walter" from the reality, telling the man's story less as the tale of myth and exaggeration (which Hagen fully contributed to himself) that grew up around him, and is still filtered down to the present day by less talented and thorough writers.

Indeed, Hagen was perhaps the most colorful character ever to play the game at such a high level, and was certainly friendly with the most dynamic personalities and revelers of his era, such as Al Jolson and Babe Ruth. But he was also a fierce competitor and the frequent winner against a host of future Hall of Fame golfers, such as Ted Ray, J.H. Taylor, George Duncan, Chick Evans, Jock Hutchison, "Long" Jim Barnes, and of course, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a handful of sports players who come into a game and leave it quite differently than they found it. I'm not sure that Hagen could be considered the intentor of professional golf, but I am sure that he is a major contender for the title. It seems like a lot of people in the time between the world wars lived life that was bigger than life.

Walter Hagen, like his friend Babe Ruth, seemed to live life the way he wanted. As he said, he didn't want to be rich, he just wanted to live that way. And it seems that he did. Hard parties, triumph on the golf course the next day. Travel was by limousine with a second one for his clothes.

There was a darker side of course, two failed marriages, the death of his son by an accidental gunshot wound, and his own death from cancer - a legacy of 45 years of cigarette smoking.

Mr. Clavin has done a supurb job of bringing this man and his life to us.
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I read this on a recommendation of a friend. I found the style a bit slow at times, relying as it frequently did on newspaper accounts. That said, I gained a much greater and deeper appreciation for what Walter Hagen did and for who he was. I am amazed and have a new hero. Old Tom died after drinking too much and stumbling down the wrong set of stairs. My dad was a mean alcoholic and he smoked a lot. So there were poignant moments in the back of my mind as I read. I could see his bulbous nose for instance. But we all are human. And The Haig was amazing. He was apparently a golfing workaholic. An ambassador. A fierce competitor. A gifted athlete. A social genius. Determined to dress the part he wanted to be. An eager traveler seeing new places and meeting new friends. A peacemaker. A pioneer. A champion of Jeffersonian ideals. A connoisseur of fashion, golf, drink, women, and the full life. I came away an ardent admirer. And wanting to be better.
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Wonderful and compelling story of the founder of professional golf as we've known it. Great man, not without his problems but who isn't? As I read on, I wondered if he and Arnold Palmer would become friends. The end will bring you to tears. Liked this book very much - it put many things in place for me.
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This book is borderline unreadable because of the historical minutiae it contains as well as the style of writing, which is dry and unentertaining. It reads much more like a history book than a biography. I will continue reading because I am interested in the life of Walter Hagen, but will not enjoy the task as much as I had hoped.
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Sir Walter is a great book for someone interested in the history of golf. Walter Hagen made as much a difference as Arnie,Jack and Tiger in his day. He was the first to do a lot of things in golf including maminggolf a profession. We owe Sir Walter a lot
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By RFXD on February 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
More than a golf book for people who love golf. Seabiscuit, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and, especially, Sir Walter evoke a bygone era of both professional sports and American culture that will never be duplicated. Clavin captures the essence of that era like no other golf book, or sports book, for that matter, that I have ever read. More than anything, when I finished this delicious narrative, I wanted grab my clubs and run out to play a round with Hagen - and then hang out with him and his famous friends in the Nineteenth Hole.
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Tom Clavin does an excellent job bringing Walter Hagen to life. This is more than your typical biography in that the author captures the person of Walter Hagen, his personal struggles in life, and the impact he had on many lives, both professional and personal. Moreover, the author treats us to an entertaining history lesson of the early stages of golf in America.

As many professional golfers have said, Walter Hagen is the quintessential golf professional who loved life, the game of golf, and lived it to the extremes. This should be recommended reading for all golfers who appreciate the game, both amateur and professional alike. In fact, many of today's tour players can learn a thing or two from Walter Hagen, breaking away from their vanilla personality.

The world needs another Walter Hagen. Good job, Mr. Clavin.
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