The History of the Wanamaker Trophy – PGA Championship

The History of the Wanamaker Trophy – PGA Championship

17 May 2024

With the PGA Championship underway for 2024, we are looking back at the History of the Wanamaker Trophy, the trophy everyone is itching to get their hands on this week.

The Wanamaker Trophy dates back to 1916 when the business-savvy department store owner, Rodman Wanamaker, realised the potential to sell more clubs if they were backed by the game’s best.

A meeting was held between Wanamaker and some prominent professional golfers at the time to discuss the formation of a professional golfers organisation, which would go on to become the PGA of America. 

With the PGA of America founded, they held the inaugural PGA Championship, a professional only tournament, at Siwanoy Country Club in New York.

Wanamaker believed in the potential of the PGA of America to such an extent that he put up $2500 of his own money for the prize fund and supplied the trophy – $2500 was a huge prize pot at the time. 

Little did Wanamaker and his co-founders know at the time that they would be responsible for creating one of the game’s greatest tournaments, or perhaps they did, and that’s why they got such an impressive trophy.

The trophy stands at 28 inches high, 10.5 inches in diameter, 27 inches from handle to handle, and weighs just over 12kg, or 27lbs – two handles for a reason!

Lost and Found

In a bizarre turn of events, the Trophy that is used today is not the original trophy and is instead a replica, but why?

The man responsible, Walter Hagen. Hagen had become well acquainted with the Trophy having won it in 1921 and then for four straight years between 1924-1927. 

At the 1926 awards ceremony, there was one small issue, no Wanamaker Trophy. Hagen played it off by saying he had no intention of surrendering it, which worked this time, but the same cannot be said for 1928.

Leo Diegel defeated Hagen and in doing so the truth was revealed, the Trophy had been lost. Whilst the story is not 100% clear, it goes something like this, Hagen had been celebrating his victory and paid a taxi driver to deliver it to his hotel.

But it never arrived at the hotel, instead, it made its way to the basement of the L.A Young & Company (Hagen’s club manufacturing firm), where it remained for 5yrs.

The original Trophy was retired and resides in the PGA Historical Centre in Florida, where names are added to it annually.

Winners of the PGA Championship pose with the ‘newer’ Trophy and keep it for a year before receiving a 90% replica upon returning the Trophy.

With the size of the original, a 90% replica is still fairly substantial!

Whilst there have been some smaller incidents in the modern era with the Trophy like Collin Morikawa dropping the lid, nothing comes close to the Hagen lost and found story.

Morikawa Wanamaker Trophy Mishap

Interested in the history behind other Majors?

We look at The History of the Green Jacket in this blog, not as many dramas but equally as interesting!

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