Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen, two of the greatest titans of the golfing world stood head to head on this day 94 years ago with ambitions to win the PGA Championship. Hagen was a season veteran who had won a couple of U.S. Open titles in 1914 & 1919 and The Open Championship the previous year. Twenty-one year old Sarazen wasn’t the new kid on the block by any standards, he had won the the previous year during the 1922 U.S. Open & 1922 PGA Championship at Oakmont Country Club but his accolades were minor compared to Hagen’s.
Walter Hagen’s history with the PGA Championship
Walter Hagen came up short in 1923, but he made up for it in a big way at seemingly every other chance he had possible. Yes, Sarazen won it back-to-back in 1922 & 1923 but in Hagen’s defense he did not participate in the 1922 contest due to prior exhibition commitments. After the second place finish to Sarazen in 1923, Walter Hagen would go on to win the PGA Championship the next four years (1924, 1925, 1926, 1927).
Sarazen slips but overcomes all odds to retain the title…
Sarazen and Hagen were all square after the morning 18 holes, after being one up/down in various stages of the round. He started things off with a birdie on the 1st only to have the match squared by Hagen when he beat Gene on the second hole. Hagen went up on the sixth only to see Sarazen level him on the next. That kind of leap frogging continued for the morning round.
In the afternoon it was a different story–Sarazen took a charge and went up three holes before making the turn looking like Hagen’s hopes were over. But Hagen waited in the weeds and was able to come back from two down in the last holes as Sarazen blundered on the 35th hole of the contest. On the 37th hole it was a moment of brilliance, Sarazen flared a shot from a terrible lie in a muddy craw-fish marsh that seemed almost impossible to recover from.
Without a doubt, Sarazen took out a niblick, equivalent to a modern 9 iron, and stuck his shot to two feet. The shot may of un-nerved Hagen as he failed to get out of a green side bunker while he saw his chances slip away. Of course it wasn’t the end for Hagen, Sarazen would retain the PGA Championship title only to watch his opponent win the next four years straight.
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.