The Wanamaker Trophy

by Vishul Malik

The PGA Championship is more than two decades younger than the US Open, but its trophy has far more stories to tell.  The Wanamaker Trophy, named after a man who…

The PGA Championship is more than two decades younger than the US Open, but its trophy has far more stories to tell.  The Wanamaker Trophy, named after a man who helped found the PGA and provided the tournament’s grand prize in its early years (first a gold medal, then the trophy itself), has been in the hands of many professional golf legends since the tournament was first contested in 1916.  Standing 28 inches high and weighing some 27 pounds, the sterling silver trophy is among the largest in the world – and the biggest of golf’s four majors. History At an exclusive lunch meeting at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York during February 1916, Rodman Wanamaker proposed the formation of a professional association for golfers,  considered then lower-class citizens in the sport.  The heir of a wealthy department store owner, Wanamaker put forth $2,500 of his own money (roughly $55,000 today) and commissioned a silver cup to serve as the official trophy.  The result, massive and wide-barreled as it is even by current standards, gradually joined golf’s pantheon of the most sought-after prizes – the Grand Slam. Walter Hagen, a pro present at that first meeting at Wykagyl, was the most dominant player in those early stages.  From 1921-27, he claimed five of the seven championships – including four straight to complete the run – and a runner-up finish.  As winner, it was customary for Hagen to take the Wanamaker Trophy to his home club for a year and then return it, something he had a bit of trouble with.  When asked in 1926 why he didn’t have the trophy upon arriving, he coolly replied that he had no intention of losing it and promptly walked his talk.  Two years later, though, when Hagen was upset at by Leo Diegel at the Baltimore Country Club, it was still nowhere to be found – the most famous professional golfer of the era had lost it. In the wake of this scandal, the PGA commissioned a replica for winners to hold from then on – not least because Hagen claimed to have paid a taxi driver to take the trophy back to his hotel while he stayed out on the town after his victory.  The replica is awarded to this day, with a smaller reproduction given to champions the following year for their personal trophy case.  The original Wanamaker turned up in 1930, packed away in a nondescript crate at L.A. Young and Co. – manufacturers of the Walter Hagen line of golf clubs – and has remained at the PGA Historical Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida since, still engraved with champions’ names after each final round. Best Players Walter Hagen (5 wins) In a different time, when the tournament was built around head-to-head match ups between professionals, few could match up with the dashing and cocky New Yorker.  Ever the showman, he is often remembered with a smirk for “misplacing” the Wanamaker Trophy, but that takes away from a legacy of five titles and a runner-up finish in just seven years up until losing out at the 1928 PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus (5 wins) In the history of professional golf, few men can make a claim for consistency over a long stretch of time quite like Nicklaus.  The only man to win the title in three different decades – the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s – he claimed three out of five from 1971-75 during a period when he dominated the tour.  Known for a compact, powerful swing despite his relatively small stature, only a one-shot victory by Lee Trevino in 1974 keeps Nicklaus from having the most wins in PGA Championship history. Tiger Woods (4 wins) The man who redefined the game around at the dawn of the 21st century is also the only golfer to have two repeat championships on his record, defending his wins in 1999 and 2006 with victories in each of the following seasons.  His triumph in 2000 is among the most famous in golf history, coming after running away from the field at the US Open and Britain’s Open Championship that year. Woods and Bob May traded shots all down the back nine, with the tournament essentially decided by a 20-foot putt iconic for the enthusiasm shown by Woods as he strode up behind the rolling ball, pointing at it and willing it into the cup for the birdie that would separate two men that had played far better in the final round than anyone could have predicted. Recent Winners Keegan Bradley (2011) Martin Kaymer (2010) Yang Yong-eun (2009) Padraig Harrington (2008) Tiger Woods (2006-07) Phil Mickelson (2005) Vijay Singh (2004) Shaun Micheel (2003) Rich Beem (2002)

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