Walter Hagen was the first Oakland Hills Country Club professional, serving in 1918 and 1919, before he became the ultimate unaffiliated professional golfer to travel the world seeking championships and exhibition golf to make his living.
He helped popularize golf with his play, personality and his dashing wardrobe as well as his endorsement of Walter Hagen and Haig Ultra clubs through Wilson Sports. He is also credited with improving the status of golf professionals in the industry. In the early years of golf in the United States golf professionals were often not considered golf gentlemen and thus not allowed in clubhouses.
As for his play, Hagen is credited with 11 major championships, third behind Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (14). He won two U.S. Opens and was the first native-born American to win the British Open, which he won four times. He also won the PGA Championship a record-tying five times and totaled 45 PGA wins while also serving as a six-time U.S. Ryder Cup team captain.
In Michigan, he won the 1921 Michigan Open Championship as well as the 1930 and ’31 Michigan PGA Professional Championships. He is one of the game’s biggest names and is regarded as the most flamboyant great player in the history of the game. An original inductee in the World Golf Hall of Fame just as he was in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, he spent the final years of his life living in Traverse City where he died at his home in 1969 at the age of 76. Arnold Palmer was one of his pall bearers, and “The Haig” rests in Holy Sepulchre Mausoleum in Southfield.