Walter Hagen bested Jim Barnes on this day for his 3rd major
By: Josh Morris – On this day, In 1921 Walter Hagen beat Jim Barnes in the fourth PGA Championship matchplay final. The even was hosted Inwood Country Club located in Inwood, New York. Originally established as a nine-hole course in 1901, it is one of the oldest golf courses on Long Island. Just two years later Inwood would host the 27th U.S. Open where Bobby Jones won his first of four United States Open titles. This was the fourth PGA Championship in the last six years due to interruptions from World War I.
On his way to the matchplay final Hagen displayed his dominance by disposing of Jack Forester 6 & 4, Tom Boyd 6 & 5, and in the quarter finals Johnny Golden 8 & 7. In the semi-finals Hagen matched up against one of the slowest players to ever grace the game, Cyril Walker. Walker, the 1924 U.S. Open Champion had played so slow that at one point in his career police officers forcibly removed him from the golf course. Hagen had no problem with slow play, in fact he used it to his advantage. If an opponent played slowly…Hagen played quickly, if a opponent played fast Hagen would wallow & slow his pace down. Nevertheless Hagen defeated Walker 5 & 4 to meet Long Jim Barnes, a two-time champion in the finals.
Reports from 1921 say that during the final round Jim Barnes played perfect golf. But “trying to bar Hagen’s way to the championship is like attempting to batter down the Rock of Gilraltar. The brillant Hagen was in one of his unbeatable streaks, one of those streaks that have caused many to regard him one of the greatest of all time, playing as close to perfect golf as one could imagine.” On October 1st, 1921 Jim Barnes was good and Walter Hagen was great. Throughout the morning round Hagen only had one blemish, a 5 on the fourht hole. It wasnt until the afternoon round when Hagen started really pulling away, turning in a 33 compared to Barnes 37. It was all over on the 34th hole, and the well deserved victor, Walter Hagen added his 3rd of eventual 11 major championships.
Newspapers report that at the time of Hagen’s win he was on the brink of retirement and uncertain about his future. After not entering in 1922 and losing the final in 1923, Hagen won four consecutive PGA Championships, starting in 1924.
Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.