At the exploratory meeting of The Professionals Golfers' Association of America on Jan. 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 Louisville, Ky., in 2000 perhaps the most thrilling climax in history. In the process, Woods became the first back-to-back PGA Champion since Shute.
In 2001 at The Atlanta Athletic Club, unheralded David Toms conquered the strongest field in golf history by finishing with a 15-under-par 265 to set a major championship record for 72 holes.
Rich Beem's stunning back-nine charge elevated him past Tiger Woods to the title in the 84th PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., and Shaun Micheel held off Chad Campbell on Sunday at brutally difficult Oak Hill Country Club to win the 85th PGA Championship for his first career victory, icing the win with a spectacular 7-iron and tap-in birdie on the 72nd hole.
In 2004, the Championship moved to Wisconsin and breathtaking Whistling Straits in Kohler, where Pete Dye's creation on the shore of Lake Michigan produced Vijay Singh's second PGA Championship triumph. Singh, the 1998 victor at Sahalee Country Club in Redmond, Wash., closed with a final-round, 4-over 76 -- the highest winning score ever by a PGA champion -- then made the only birdie over the three extra holes to defeat Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco in a three-hole playoff.
The following year, Phil Mickelson claimed his second major in as many years with a brilliant up-and-down tap-in birdie from the heavy greenside rough on the par-5 18th hole to win the 87th PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. It was the first Monday finish at the PGA Championship in 19 years. And not since 1986 at Inverness had a player from the last group won the Wanamaker Trophy with a birdie on the 72nd hole.
Over the past nine 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.
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