At the exploratory meeting of The Professionals Golfers' Association of America on January 17, 1916, 34 other golf professionals joined the legendary Walter Hagen to lay the building blocks for the foundation of what is today, the world's largest working sports organization. It was there that the idea for a national championship was conceived. Department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker, who hosted the meeting, would provide a trophy for the competition, as well as an initial purse of $2,580 for the match-play event.
The first PGA Championship was played in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. But it would be five years before an American-born PGA Professional claimed the Championship. England's Jim Barnes won the inaugural Championship, but the event was interrupted for two years by World War I. Barnes came back in 1919 to capture his second consecutive Championship and began his own era of domination. Hagen would go on to post his record-tying five PGA Championships in the 1920s. Gene Sarazen would claim victories in 1922, '23 and '33.
Denny Shute captured the PGA Championship title in 1936 and 1937, becoming the first back-to-back winner before Tiger Woods in 2000. The baptism of Byron Nelson as one of the finest competitors in PGA Championship history began in 1939 when he was defeated, 1-up by Henry Picard, in the finals. "Lord Byron" reached the finals in four of the next five PGA Championships, and etched his name on the Wanamaker Trophy twice, in 1940 and 1945. The Championship was not played in 1943 because of World War II. During the post-war years, the Wanamaker Trophy added the names of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Chick Harbert, Doug Ford and Jack Burke.
In 1958, the format of the PGA Championship was changed from match play to stroke play. The new era in PGA Championship history added the names of Dow Finsterwald, Bob Rosburg, Jay Hebert and Gary Player to its Champions roster. In 1963, Jack Nicklaus won his first of a record-tying five PGA Championships. Fittingly, Nicklaus tied Hagen's record with his last PGA Championship triumph in 1980 at Oak Hill Country Club in Hagen's hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
In 1999, a 23-year-old named Tiger Woods became the fifth youngest winner in PGA Championship history when he outlasted Spain's 19-year-old Sergio Garcia by one stroke at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.
Woods made the PGA Championship's return to Valhalla Golf Club in 2000 perhaps the most thrilling climax in history. In the process, Woods became the first back-to-back PGA Champion since Denny Shute.
Over the past eight decades, the PGA Championship has developed into one of the premier sporting events in the world. More than 100,000 people line the fairways of the nation's finest golf facilities during PGA Championship week to view the strongest, all-professional international field in major championship golf. As it was more than 80 years ago, the Wanamaker Trophy is still prized as one of the golf world's greatest treasures.
The founding of The PGA of America in 1916 and the first PGA Championship were directly connected. The first event featured 31 players and was won by Jim Barnes, earning $500 and a diamond medal. Rodman Wanamaker, for whom the champion's trophy is named, in assisting with the founding of the PGA of America and the PGA Championship set about to "elevate the standards of the golf professional's vocation." Rich Beem in 2002 won $990,000 for his victory in the PGA Championship, which had over 900 media credentialed to cover the event, tens of thousands of spectators in attendance, and millions watching on television around the world. The PGA Championship: The Season's Final Major will tell the history of one of golf's most coveted titles from 1916 through 2003. Jack Nicklaus is writing the foreword for the book. Clock Tower Press, which will publish the book in late Spring 2004, is a specialist in golf subjects. America's Linksland and The Evangelist of Golf by the company recently won awards from the International Network of Golf Members Association (INGMA).
The authors of The PGA Championship are John Companiotte and Dr. Catherine Lewis. Companiotte has published articles in Golf Magazine, Links, AirTran Arrivals and various regional publications. He serves on the executive committee of the Georgia State Golf Association and the national communications committee of the USGA. Dr. Lewis is the author of the book Considerable Passions: Golf, the Masters, and the Legacy of Bobby Jones, and as a museum curator has done exhibitions on Bobby Jones, The Masters, and Byron Nelson, among other subjects.
To learn more about the history of the PGA Championship see:
The PGA Championship: The Season's Final Major by John Companiotte and Catherine Lewis available from Clock Tower Press in June of 2004. Pre-order it today!
Learn more about the history of the PGA Championship, pick up:
The PGA Championship: The Season's Final Major by John Companiotte and Catherine Lewis -- available from Clock Tower Press in June of 2004. Pre-order it today!