PGA Championship: A Legendary Battleground
Posted on August 2, 2017
The PGA Championship is the final major of the PGA season with the most lucrative prize of all the majors. The champions name will be etched alongside of golfing greats on the famed Wanamaker Trophy. Along with a hefty payday the winner of the PGA Championship gains a five season membership to the PGA and European Tours, invitation to the other three majors (Masters Tournament, U.S. Open and the Open Championship) and the Players Championship for 5 years, and lifetime exemption to the PGA Championship. With so much at stake, the PGA Championship brings out great competition among the field.The very first PGA Championship was held in 1916, the same year the PGA of America was founded. In early 1916 Rodman Wanamaker, a prestigious department store owner, had gathered the top golf professionals of the day, like Francis Ouimet and Walter Hagen, for a lunch meeting. It was there they discussed the need to form a national organization for professional golfers to raise their social stature. Thus the Professional Golfers Association of America, PGA of America, was established in February of 1916 in New York.
Following the formation of the PGA of America, Wanamaker suggested they host a tournament open to professionals only. Later that year the inaugural PGA championship was played in October 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Wanamaker put up a prize fund of $2,500 and commissioned a grand trophy. Known as the Wanamaker trophy, it stands 28 inches high, 10 and a half inches in diameter, 27 inches handle to handle and weighs 27 pounds. Jim Barnes won the first event and received the winner’s purse of $500 along with a diamond medal and his name etched on the trophy. Barnes would go on to defend his title winning the second tournament held in 1919 at Engineers Country Club, play being suspended previous years due to World War I.In 1921 the legendary Walter Hagen won the first of his record 5 PGA Championships. The following year Gene Sarazen became the youngest winner at 20 years old. Sarazen defeated Hagen in 1923 to defend his championship. However, Hagen would then dominate the tournament winning four straight years, from 1924 – 1927. A few years later Sarazen won the PGA Championship for his third and final time in 1933.
In 1928, Walter Hagen’s reign as the PGA Champion was ended by Leo Diegel. Upon his loss, Hagen was to surrender the Wanamaker trophy to the new champion, but there was a problem. Hagen had lost the Wanamaker trophy, which is hard to do considering its enormous stature. Apparently Hagen actually lost the prized trophy three years prior in 1925. After Hagen had won his seventh major title at the 1925 PGA Championship, Walter went out on the town in Chicago to celebrate. Upon cruising the town in a taxi Hagen saw a friend heading to a club and hopped out to join. Hagen recalls giving the cab driver $5 to bring the trophy back to his hotel, which was the last he saw of it. Hagen left the fact he lost the trophy a secret for years.
At the 1926 PGA Championship when questioned about the location of the trophy Hagen replied that he didn’t bring it since he had no intention of losing. However once he lost in 1928 Hagen had to admit that he’d lost the trophy. The PGA of America had a replica of the Wanamaker trophy made, which is what the PGA Champion now receives and poses with. In 1930 the original Wanamaker trophy was found in an unmarked case in the basement of L.A. Young & Company, a firm which produced the line of Walter Hagen golf clubs. The mystery of how it got there is unknown, but once it was recovered the original trophy was retired and placed on display in the PGA Historical Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The winner of the PGA Championship has their name etched on the original as well as the replica, and receives a smaller replica to keep.In 1940 Walter Hagen competed in his last PGA Championship and was knocked out in the third round. Byron Nelson defeated Sam Snead that year to win his first PGA Championship, which he would win again in 1945. Two years later Sam Snead would win the 1942 PGA Championship and earn the first of his seven major titles. Ben Hogan also won the first of his nine major titles at the PGA Championship in 1946.
Originally the PGA Championship was played as a match play event with a stroke play qualifier up until 1957. In 1958 the tournament format was switched to stroke play with a standard 72-hole format of 18 holes a day played over four days, Thursday through Sunday. The 1958 PGA Championship was the first to be broadcasted on television, appearing on CBS. That year Dow Finsterwald earned his first victory at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, PA.In 1971 golf icon Jack Nicklaus defeated Billy Casper to win the PGA Championship for his second time, his first was in 1963. With the win Nicklaus became the first golfer to accomplish a second career grand slam, winning all of golf’s major tournaments twice. Gary Player would emerge victorious at the 1972 PGA Championship, his second win at the event and sixth of his nine major titles. That next year Jack Nicklaus would win his 14th major title (he would go on to win 18 majors total), breaking Bobby Jones previous record of the most major titles at 13. Nicklaus would go on to win the PGA Championship two more times in 1975 and 1980.
Lee Trevino took home the Wanamaker trophy for his second time in 1984, ten years after he first won it, clinching his sixth and final major title. Trevino won with a 15 under par, 4 strokes better than second place finishers Gary Player and Lanny Wadkins. In the early 90s Nick Price earned his first major win at the 1992 PGA Championship. Price, world no. 1 golfer at the time, would go on to win back-to-back majors in 1994 at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.In 1999 a 23-year old Tiger Woods emerged triumphant over second place finisher Sergio Garcia to win his first PGA Championship and second major. Woods defended his title the following year after a three-hole playoff against Bob May, marking his 3rd consecutive major win of the year after having won the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. Tiger would win back-to-back PGA Championships again in 2006 and 2007. In 2012 Rory McIlroy set a PGA Championship record for largest victory margin with an 8 stroke win. At the 2014 PGA Championship McIlroy won for his second time and fourth major title, beating out 2005 PGA Champion Phil Mickelson.
The 2015 PGA Championship saw Jason Day clinch his first major championship. Day outshot Jordan Spieth, who was vying for his third major of the year, by three strokes. Jason Day set a record for lowest score in relation to par ever in a major with a 268, 20 under par. The record has since been matched by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open Championship. Although Jordan Spieth lost the major he was able to volt into the number one spot on the Official World Golf Ranking thanks to his second place finish. In 2016 Jason Day looked to defend his title but was outplayed by Jimmy Walker who was able to capture his first major title by a stroke. Jimmy Walker held the lead throughout the tournament and ended the final day bogey-free.Jimmy Walker will be looking to defend his title at the 2017 PGA Championship which will be held at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 7th 2017. Walker will be competing against a strong field including Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy.