By Roger Graves, PGA Championship Journal
Golf historians agree that Jan. 17, 1916, marked a major milestone for golf in the United States. That was the day department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker sponsored a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York City, during which 35 prominent golf professionals and leaders of the game laid the groundwork to form The PGA of America.
But the "major milestone" established that day? Since the formal birth of The Professional Golfers' Association of America came nearly three months later, on April 10, 1916, at the Hotel Martinique in Manhattan, what could possibly qualify as a "major milestone" on that wintry Monday in mid-January? Elementary, my dear Watson.
On Jan. 17, 1916, the prestigious PGA Championship was born, becoming golf's third-oldest major championship behind the British Open (first played in 1860) and the United States Open (1895). Coincidentally, it also was the day the Wanamaker Trophy ?- the 27-pound silver cup that is still presented to the PGA Champion each August ?- was commissioned and took its place beside the Claret Jug and the U.S. Open Championship Cup as one of golf's most coveted prizes.
At that Monday luncheon meeting in mid-January of 1916, the aforementioned Wanamaker promised to promptly place The Professional Golfers' Association of America on the world golf map by organizing a Championship solely for professional golfers staged by the soon-to-be-chartered PGA of America. To cement the deal, Wanamaker put up a purse of $2,580, a diamond-studded medal for the Champion and a three-foot-tall trophy that was immediately christened the Wanamaker Trophy.
Just like that, quicker than you could say Walter Hagen, Denny Shute or Jack Nicklaus, the PGA Championship was born. And when the inaugural PGA Championship unfolded Oct. 9?14, 1916, a star was born.
One James Martin Barnes, a British native known as "Long" Jim in reference to his long tee balls and his long height (6-foot-3), began paving his path to the World Golf Hall of Fame by winning the first PGA Championship 90 years ago at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.
Barnes Was a Relative Unknown
The long-hitting, soft-spoken Barnes, who was born April 8, 1886 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, became an assistant professional at the age of 15 in his homeland and emigrated to the United States in 1906. He was something of an unknown entity when he arrived at Siwanoy Country Club for the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916, mentioned far down the list of favorites that included Walter Hagen, Jock Hutchison, Cyril Walker, Willie MacFarlane and host professional Tom Kerrigan.
The PGA Championship was a matchplay format until 1958, with qualification rounds conducted in different sections of the country to determine a 32-player draw that would play a series of 36-hole matches. Barnes caught the eye of Hagen and Hutchison, generally considered the two favorites, with impressive 8-and-7 victories over George Fotheringham and Alec Smith in the first two rounds of the 1916 PGA Championship.
That elevated the Englishman to the quarterfinals, where he met Kerrigan. The Siwanoy host professional is the answer to a trivia question -? who had the honor of striking the first ball in the first PGA Championship? ?- but his local knowledge was no match for Barnes, who won the match 3-and-1.
While most of the crowd watched future four-time British Open, five-time PGA and two-time U.S. Open Champion Hagen battle 1916 U.S. Open runner-up and future PGA (1920) and British Open (1921) Champion Hutchison in the semifinals, Barnes was blitzing future U.S. Open Champion (1925) MacFarlane 6-and-5. Barnes earned his semifinal victory so quickly, he was able to watch Hagen and Hutchison play the final two holes of their match to determine the other finalist. Hutchison came to the 36th hole nursing a 1-up lead and won the match, 2-up, when Hagen hit his second shot into a brook in front of the 18th hole.
The 36-hole finale between Barnes and Hutchison was hard to handicap. Barnes had advanced through the draw without a difficult match and was thought to be the "fresher" of the two finalists. However, Hutchison was equally impressive, registering consecutive 11-and-9 victories in the first two rounds, before beating Walker in the quarterfinals 4-and-3, and outlasting Hagen in the semifinals.
A Come-From-Behind Victory
With a large crowd following the final, according to The New York Times, Hutchison rode the momentum of his victory over Hagen to a 3-up advantage after nine holes. But Barnes fired an even-par 36 on the back nine to reduce the deficit to one hole at the lunch break, as both players recorded 77s over the initial 18 holes.
After a sandwich break, Barnes told the crowd before his drive on the first hole, "I always do better after lunch."
The Englishman, who then lived in Philadelphia, squared the match at the 21st hole and took the lead for the first time at the 25th hole with an 18-foot putt. Barnes made a 35-footer for birdie to halve the 27th hole and dropped a 25-footer at the 28th hole to go 2-up. The gritty Hutchison, playing out of Glenview, Ill., sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the 29th hole and squared the match with a three at the 31st hole.
Hutchison regained his lead at the 33rd hole with a par when Barnes missed the green and made bogey, but Hutchison missed a five-footer on the 35th hole to leave the match level with one hole remaining.
The two combatants both hit their second shots at the final hole just short of the green and pitched up to about five feet away. Their balls were so close to equal distances from the hole that a measurement was requested. When it was determined that Hutchison was about an inch farther away than Barnes, he putted first and missed his five-footer to save par.
The 30-year-old Barnes then sank his five-footer for the 1-up victory to become the first player to have his name engraved on the coveted Wanamaker Trophy as the 1916 PGA Champion.
If you look closely at the Wanamaker Trophy, you will notice that Jim Barnes is listed as the winner of the first two PGA Championships. But Barnes had to wait until 1919 to win his second PGA Championship, since play was suspended in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I. "Long" Jim advanced to the PGA Championship finals on two later occasions, falling to Hagen 3-and-2 in 1921 and losing to "The Haig" again in 1924, 2-up.
A Hall-of-Fame Career
Renowned writer Bernard Darwin noted in 1935 that the PGA Championship launched Barnes' career in golf, even though the long-hitting Englishman also won the 1921 U.S. Open at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., by nine strokes over Hagen and Fred McLeod, and won the 1925 British Open at Prestwick by coming from five shots behind when Macdonald Smith faltered with a final-round 82. Barnes also won the Western Open three times, which in his day was considered an elite championship.
He never played in the Masters, which began in 1934, preventing him from having the opportunity to win the modern career Grand Slam.
Barnes, whose last victory came in the 1939 New Jersey Open at age 52, often feuded with three-time PGA Champion Gene Sarazen over what Sarazen considered the older man's brusque manner. Despite their differences, Sarazen rated Barnes the best iron player he had ever seen, according to Darwin.
In 1940, Barnes was one of the 12 original inductees into the PGA Hall of Fame, later known as the World Golf Hall of Fame, and now the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame ?- located at the PGA Historical Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Barnes had an angular, serious face that was topped by a thatch of unruly hair that gave him "an aspect which, to the stranger, suggested the Wild West," according to Darwin. "He was an intense, quiet competitor who often kept a sprig of clover or grass clamped tightly between his teeth. All his career, he was one of the few players who wore trousers instead of knickers, an ?old school' conceit.
"More than anything, he could play this game of golf as well as any man at stroke or match play."
Barnes, who died in 1966, enjoyed a distinguished career, winning four major championships and 21 professional titles. You might say it all began with the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.
But golf historians will tell you Barnes' career really took root on Jan. 17, 1916, in New York when Rodman Wanamaker provided the purse and passion to hatch the PGA Championship and laid the groundwork to charter The Professional Golfers' Association of America.
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