Hagen had a model attitude during competition, one part bravado and five parts serenity. He understood completely that the only shot that matters is the next one, and wouldn’t let a bad one ruffle him. “I expect to make at least seven mistakes a round,” he said. “Therefore, when I make a bad shot, it’s just one of the seven.” He never complained about bad breaks, and, perhaps because of that attitude, always seemed to be getting good ones. “I love to play with Walter,” said Jones. “He can come nearer beating luck itself than anybody I know.”
It was all a natural extension of his overall philosophy of life. Born in Rochester, N.Y., Dec. 21, 1892, the son of a blacksmith, Hagen came from modest beginnings and entered golf as a caddy, but he resolved to live big. “I never wanted to be a millionaire,” he said. “I just wanted to live like one.” Although an imposing six feet tall with slick black hair and covered in the finest fabrics, Hagen nonetheless had a kindly face and a twinkle of irony that invited rather than repelled the common man. His gestures were grand, but wonderfully human. When he won the 1922 British Open at Royal St. George’s, Hagen’s reaction to professionals not being allowed in the clubhouse was to hire an Austro-Daimler limousine, park it directly in front of the clubhouse and change his clothes and take his meals in the car.
Hagen once expressed his creed in these words: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” When he died in Traverse City, Mich., Oct. 5, 1969, there was no doubt he had lived it.