Vardon was a true original. On his own, he developed the Vardon Grip, in which the little finger of the right hand is rested on top of the index finger of the left hand, the grip used by 90 percent of good players today. Wrote Bernard Darwin of Vardon, "I do not think anyone who saw him play in his prime will disagree as to this, that a greater genius is inconceivable."
Vardon was born May 9, 1870, in Grouville, Jersey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France. The son of a gardener, he was one of six boys and two girls. Vardon taught himself the effortless, upright swing that would serve him the rest of his life.
Vardon played in knickers (the first professional to do so), fancy-topped stockings, a hard collar and tie, and tightly buttoned jacket, but still there was a wonderful freedom to his movement. He allowed his left arm to bend as he reached the top of the backswing, and there was a lack of muscular stress or tension at any part of the swing.
Vardon won the British Open in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911 and, at the age of 44, in 1914. He also won the U.S. Open in 1900 while he toured America for the first time, playing some 88 matches, winning 75 of them. He had 62 total tournament victories before he died on March 20,1937, in London. On both the European and U.S. PGA Tours, the Vardon Trophy is awarded annually to the professional with the lowest stroke average.
Hagen was the world's first full-time tournament professional. He won so often and in such lavish style that he single-handedly ushered the playing pro. As Arnold Palmer, the other great democrat of his sport, once said at a dinner honoring Hagen: "If not for you, Walter, this dinner tonight would be downstairs in the pro shop, not in the ballroom."
Hagen won 11 professional major championships, second only to Jack Nicklaus's total of 18. Between 1914 and 1929, he won the PGA Championship five times (four of them in a row, the only time that has been accomplished in a major championship); the British Open four times, and the U.S. Open twice. He also won the Western Open five times between 1916 and 1932, when it was widely considered a major championship.
Hagen is generally considered the greatest match player of all time. He once won 22 straight 36-hole matches in the PGA and, between the first round in 1921 and the fourth round of 1928, 32 out of 33. After he defeated Bob Jones 12 and 11 in a 72-hole challenge match in 1926 - which temporarily decided which of them was the greatest golfer of the day - even the gentlemanly Jones couldn't contain his frustration. "When a man misses his drive, and then misses his second shot, and then wins the hole with a birdie, said Jones, "it gets my goat."(1892-1969)
Born in Rochester, N.Y., on 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. Hagen's 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."