That night, with the playoff to begin the next day, Hagen threw himself a "victory" party at the hotel. When one of the guests suggested long past midnight that maybe Walter should think about getting some sleep, Brady having already been in bed for hours, Hagen replied, "He may be in bed, but he ain't asleep." Hagen beat Brady by a stroke in the playoff. And when he returned to Detroit for a banquet in his honor at Oakland Hills, Brady, unaccountably, was with him. At the banquet Hagen rose to accept the club's congratulations, and then he shocked the members by announcing that he was resigning on the spot to become golf's first unattached, full-time touring professional. "But," he said, "I've got just the fellow to replace me. He's here tonight—Mike Brady."
Hagen never turned back. The Scotch and champagne flowed and there were women everywhere. His marriage collapsed. In April 1923 he married again, but as the second Mrs. Hagen, Edna, complained in her divorce action, Hagen deserted her as early as 1926. She was, she said, a "golf widow. The only place I can find him is on the sports pages." He did make some token appearances, though. Once, as he prepared for bed in the hotel room where they were staying, Edna observed that her husband was not wearing the underwear he began the day with. When she remarked on this phenomenon, Hagen glanced down, slapped his naked buttocks and cried out, "My god, I've been robbed!"
He was the ultimate good-time Charlie, the big spender who bought drinks for the house, the storyteller who kept everybody in the speakeasy or bar up till closing time. Somehow in all the excitement, he did remain close to his son, Walter Jr. He took the boy on some of his trips, and he played with him in exhibition matches. In time Walter Jr. became a fine amateur golfer, but he was no match for his father either on or off the course. When someone would be insensitive enough to ask the younger Hagen, "How come you can't play golf like your father?" he would reply coldly, "Now, you tell me who in hell can."
For all of the affection Hagen lavished on the boy, he was still an absentee and often hilariously absentminded father. He probably never did know exactly how old his son was. On Walter Jr.'s 14th birthday, Hagen proudly gave him an Auburn sedan, unaware apparently that the boy was too young to drive in most places. And when Walter Jr. was a student at Notre Dame University he received a six-foot-long cablegram sent by his father from Rangoon, wishing him a happy 21st birthday, with a heartfelt fatherly message about the responsibilities of manhood. The message was not lost on Walter Jr., but the birthday was only his 20th.
Hagen was having a wonderful time taking his show on the road, often in the company of the trick-shot artist Joe Kirkwood. "Never hurry and don't worry," Hagen was fond of saying. "You're here for just a short visit, so don't forget to stop and smell the flowers." The money he won in major tournaments represented only a small portion—perhaps 15%—of an income that was swelled by exhibitions and occasional stints as a pro in residence to more than $100,000 a year, an astronomical figure for the '20s and certainly for the Depression years. Ruth's highest annual salary, by comparison, was only $80,000. But Hagen spent it as fast as he made it, or at least spent what he could find, because his manager, Harlow, was clever enough to deposit much of Hagen's earnings in banks the golfer didn't know about.
The Haig was no longer a phony drinker, but a prodigious one, and he was smoking 2� packs of cigarettes a day. Still he remained faithful, for the most part, to the lessons on deportment he learned from the swells at the Country Club of Rochester. He never swore, while Jones, the Harvard-educated Southern gentleman, could cuss like a sailor. And Hagen never revealed any of the details of his amatory adventures. "He was a womanizer who put women on a pedestal," says Price. "He treated them all the same, with courtliness, whether they were movie stars or cocktail waitresses."
His skills, though, were fast eroding. He won the British Open in 1929 and the Western Open in '32, and at age 42 he finished third in the U.S. Open in 1935, but he was no longer much of a threat. "If I win another big one," he told San Francisco Examiner columnist Prescott Sullivan in the late '30s, "it will be dumb luck."
And yet he still had his moments, some of them vicarious. He was playing with Sarazen in the final round of the 1935 Masters when golfing history was made on the par-5, 485-yard 15th hole. Sarazen and Hagen were the last two out that day, and Hagen was growing impatient. The leader, Craig Wood, was in the clubhouse, and Sarazen, three strokes back, was struggling to catch him. Sarazen's drive was 265 yards down the middle of the fairway. As Sarazen debated what club to use for the second shot, Hagen, noting the late hour, called out to him, "Hurry it up, will you, Gene. I've got a big date tonight." Sarazen obliged him, hitting a spoon (three-wood) shot 220 yards into the hole for the most famous double eagle ever. He tied Wood and beat him the next day in a 36-hole playoff for the championship.
But there were also sad times by then. Hagen had just shot back-to-back 72s in the first two rounds of the St. Paul Open in July of 1934 when, returning from the course to his hotel, his car struck a six-year-old boy, Laurence Johnson, who had darted out onto the street. The boy was then run over by an oncoming streetcar. Hagen leapt from his car and ran to the fallen youngster. "Don't tell me you're dead, sonny," he cried out. "Come on, speak to me." But the boy had been killed. The police determined that the accident was "unavoidable," but Hagen was badly shaken, and from then on the onetime lover of fast cars rarely drove. "He hated driving," says Price, who tried unsuccessfully in the early 1950s to collaborate with Hagen on an autobiography. "I'd drive for him, but if I ever went faster than 45, he'd have a fit. 'What's your hurry?' he'd say, as cars whizzed by all around us. I never knew about the incident."
As the years passed, Hagen retreated more and more to the Michigan backwoods he had grown to love since his days as the Oakland Hills pro. Price spent a year with him at Lake Cadillac trying to get him to concentrate on his autobiography, but it was no use. "He was content to just horse around. He'd get up in the morning at six and have a beer in his hands at seven. Then maybe he'd give me a lesson. I learned a lot about golf, but after a year I realized nothing was going to happen with the book." The autobiography, now long out of print, was completed with another writer several years later.