Walter Hagen played golf with Johnny McDermott at his psychiatric hospital golf course!

“Did You Know”
Walter Hagen played golf with Johnny McDermott at his psychiatric hospital golf course!

In 1914, only two years after winning the US Open for a second consecutive year, 1911 and 1912, Johnny McDermott suffered a nervous breakdown.  His two sisters were forced to commit him to a private institution. But, with limited resources, he was moved to Norristown (PA) State Hospital for the insane at just 24 years of age. He was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia. Another reason for the move was loses in the stock market, which had taken a toll on McDermott’s finances.   

Norristown State Hospital had a six-hole golf course, which had been built for the staff. The hospital course covered 1,232 yards, with some of the fairways crisscrossing. It worked because the course wasn’t busy. The longest hole was 287 yards and the shortest 132. Most days McDermott would play the course.

8 J. McDermott (2)

With the exception of a failed comeback attempt in 1924, and his sisters driving him to local golf courses on weekends where he would visit golf professionals he had known, he spent the remainder of his life in that hospital until his death in 1971, just eleven days shy of his 80th birthday.

On Sunday October 23, 1923, Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood, the world’s greatest trick shot artist, were playing a 36-hole exhibition at Gulph Mills Golf Club.

While playing the exhibition, Hagen learned that the psychiatric hospital where Johnny McDermott was confined was not far from Gulph Mills. After golf, Hagen and his wife were driven to the hospital by a trustee of the hospital to visit McDermott.

Late that Sunday afternoon Hagen played the course with McDermott. Hagen reported that despite not playing any competitive golf for nine years, McDermott had lost little of his old prowess.

While sitting on a bench with Hagen, McDermott remarked several times “I don’t think I ever saw a more beautiful view, than from here. I think it is fine. Tell the boys I’m doing well.”  

2 thoughts on “Walter Hagen played golf with Johnny McDermott at his psychiatric hospital golf course!

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  1. What a tragedy! Nowadays, McDermott would be medicated and back on tour. Golf, psychiatry and pharmacology have come a long way!


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