1919: Walter Hagen defeats Mike Brady to win the U.S. Open after staying out the previous night partying

Walter Hagen wins the 1919 U.S. Open

Ninety-eight years ago today Walter Hagen, the sharply dressed match-play king, defeated Mike Brady to win the 1919 U.S. Open.  Held at Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Massachusetts it was the first U.S. Open to be played in three years due to World War I.  Hagen displayed the mental and physical characteristics to best his opponents to ease his way to his second major title.

Mike Brady carded consecutive rounds of 74 to take the 36-hole lead by two, with Hagen in a group three back. Brady shot 73 in the third round and opened up a commanding five-shot lead over Hagen. In the final round, he stumbled to an 80 for 301 total, allowing Hagen back into the championship. Hagen had a 10-footer to win at the 18th, but his putt lipped out

The Night Before The Playoff

Hagen and Brady took vastly different approaches in preparing for the next day’s playoff.  Brady returned home, rested…essentially did everything he could to make sure he was 100 percent for the next day.  He arrived to the course over an hour early and spent most of that time hitting balls and getting loose.

Hagen did the opposite.  Following the conclusion of the fourth round, Hagen linked up with jazz performer Al Jolson to celebrate the night away.  Jolson was in town for his 10 week run in the play Sinbad at the Boston Opera House.

 “The party pretty much lasted the entire night…champange, pretty girls, …jokes and laughter… no sleep.”

-Walter Hagen, the night before he won the 1919 U.S. Open

The only time Hagen had before the playoff was a mere half hour to shave, eat, and arrive to the playoff.  His confident approach probably should have failed him, but it didn’t.  He was inside of Brady’s head before he even showed up to the course that morning.

To open up the playoff final, Hagen & Brady each parred the first hole.  On the second tee box Hagen remarked to Brady…

HAGEN: “Mike, If I were you… I’d roll my sleeves down.”

BRADY: “Why?”

HAGEN: “Because all of the gallery will see your muscles quivering.”

The seed had been planted, and Hagen was in his opponents head.  Brady proceeded to hook his drive into heavy rough before taking a double bogey on the hole.  Hagen carried a two-stroke lead to the 17th but then bogeyed to see his lead cut to one. But both players made par on the 18th, giving Hagen the his second U.S. Open Championship.  The match ended Hagen 77, Brady 78.

Shortly after, Hagen resigned from his position as club professional of Oakland Hills Country Club in Detroit to become a touring pro. He recommended, Mike Brady to be his replacement, and eventually was.

Record High Scores …

Willie Chisholm set an unfortunate tournament record in the first round at the par-3 8th hole. His approach shot landed in a rocky ravine and he took several shots to get out. He eventually settled for an 18 on the hole, a dubious record that would stand until a 19 was recorded in 1938.  In the second round of the 1938 U.S. Open, Ray Ainsley upped the record by one by shooting a 19 on the par-4 16th hole. Ainsley’s ball landed in a creek, and instead of taking a drop he continued to play the ball out. He shot 96 (+25) for the round and missed the cut.

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  1. Book recommendation: “Sir Walter” by Tom Clavin which documents the career of the man who made it possible for the lowly club pros to become respected and highly paid golf professionals….

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