Jan. 17, 1916: Creating the PGA of America

PGA of America
Rodman Wanamaker, with the minutes of the original 1916 meeting and Walter Hagen's application for admission to the newly-formed PGA of America.
By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Series: PGA Feature

Published: Saturday, January 16, 2016 | 11:18 p.m.

On this date 100 years ago, a lunch invitation in New York evolved into what's now known as the Professional Golfers Association of America.

Based on the PGA's own historical records, here's a summation of the events that led up to what took place on Jan. 17, 1916.

PGA OF AMERICA HISTORY: 1916-1919

Rodman Wanamaker was an ardent golfer and heir to Wanamaker's, a well-known Philadelphia department store. In 1914, there were just 41 golf courses nationwide, but by 1916, the sport was growing quickly. But the majority of the clubs at that time refused to admit professionals to their clubhouses.

But Wanamaker saw the public's growing enthusiasm for golf as the beginning of a national trend. He also saw a business opportunity: more golfers means more equipment, and if they bought that equipment at Wanamaker's, even better.

So what if there was a national organization of golf professionals, who could help promote interest in the game and grow the sport? On Jan. 17, 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of New York-area golf professionals, accompanied by several prominent amateur golfers, to a luncheon in the ninth-floor restaurant of the Wanamaker Store in New York City.

The minutes of that first informal gathering still exist in hand-written form. When that first meeting concluded, James Hepburn, a former British PGA secretary, had been named to chair a seven-member organizing committee. James Hepburn, John (Jack) Hobens, Jack Mackie, James Maiden, Gilbert Nicholls, Herbert Strong and Robert White were chosen to pursue the matter further, and an organization of American golf professionals took its first step toward becoming a reality.

Three months later, on April 10, 35 charter members -- including Walter Hagen -- met again to officially apply for membership into the fledgling PGA of America. Wanamaker donated $2,500 and a trophy toward the first PGA Championship, which was held later that fall at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.

The Association's first order of business was to establish the organization's objectives. The members agreed to the following:

  • Promote interest in the game of golf.
  • Elevate the standards of the golf professional's vocation.
  • Protect the mutual interest of its members.
  • Hold meetings and tournaments for the benefit of members.
  • Assist deserving unemployed members to obtain positions.
  • Establish a benevolent relief fund for deserving members.
  • Accomplish any other objective, which may be determined by the Association from time to time.

A century later, the more than 28,000 members of the PGA of America continue to dedicate themselves to the same goals set forth by Wanamaker in that initial meeting -- to promote and grow the game of golf.


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