Walter Hagen becomes 1st American to win The Open
On this day, In 1922 Walter Hagen made history yet again becoming the first American born player to win The Open Championship. He did so by defeating runners-up Jim Barnes and George Duncan by a stroke at Royal St. Georges in Sandwich, England. It was the first of Hagen’s four Open Championships and the fourth of his eleven major titles.
For the qualifier, the top 80 plus ties were granted entry…18 holes were played at Royal St. Georges and the other 18 at the adjacent Princes Golf Club. Hagen along with Australian Joe Kirkwood set the mark for qualification at 147. Oddly after the Monday/Tuesday qualifier, Wednesday was an off day which included a driving contest which was unpopular among the professionals.
For the final time, two members of the Great Triumvirate finished in the top-10 at the Open Championship; Taylor, age 51, finished sixth and six-time champion Harry Vardon, age 52, tied for eighth. The third member, James Braid, missed qualifying on Tuesday by a stroke
Hagen held the 36 hole lead over a flurry of defending champions such as Jim Barnes & J.H. Taylor. In the third round Jock Hutchison shot a 73 which matched the lowest round at that point in the tournament, moving him to the lead.
During the final day, Hagen and Barnes dueled for the Claret Jug, but Barnes’ 73 was one off Hagen’s 72, his lowest round of the championship. Duncan, the 1920 champion, shot an 81 in the third round and fell six strokes back into a tie for tenth, then rebounded with a 69 in the afternoon to climb the leaderboard and tie Barnes for second. Taylor and Gassiat shot high scores in the final round and dropped to sixth and seventh, respectively.
Hagen would triumph in 1922 but would finish runner up to Arthur Havers during the 1923 Open Championship after having holed out a bunker shot on the 72nd hole. In 1923, it was the first year they held The Open at Royal Troon and did not let professionals into their clubhouse. In protest, Hagen invited everyone down the street for a drink on him leaving Haver’s Championship presentation sparsely attended.
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.