The PGA Championship, the annual culmination of golf's four major Championships, celebrates its 94th edition in 2012, with its first visit to South Carolina and The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Since its inception in 1916, the PGA Championship has evolved into one of the world's premier sporting events.


Between them, immortals Gene Sarazen (left) and Walter Hagen (right) won eight PGA Championships, including seven straight from 1921-27. (Getty Images)

Each summer, one of the nation's most outstanding golf facilities hosts golf's best professionals, as they compete for the Wanamaker Trophy. Winning that Trophy is an experience that has been savored by only 63 individuals.

Overall, 71 courses in 25 states have served as a host site for at least one of the 91 PGA Championships. Since 1994, the PGA Championship has featured the most players in the Top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings, and perennially has boasted the strongest field in golf. The 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., established an all-time record for world-ranked participants, with 98 of the Top 100.

The PGA Championship was born in the mind of department store owner Rodman Wanamaker, who saw the merchandising possibilities in a professional golfers' organization. Wanamaker invited some prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives to a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York City. On Jan. 17, 1916, a group of 35 individuals, including the legendary Walter Hagen, convened for an exploratory meeting, which resulted in the formation of The PGA of America.

During the meeting, Wanamaker hinted the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Wanamaker believed that the Championship should be conducted similar to the British News of the World Tournament.

That Championship, a 36-hole elimination match-play tournament, was the PGA Championship of Great Britain. Meanwhile, both the British Open and the U.S. Open were played at medal (stroke) play over 72 holes. Wanamaker's offer was informally accepted, and seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.

British-born professional Jim Barnes and Jock Hutchison, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, played in the final match of the inaugural PGA Championship. Barnes emerged a 1-up victor.

The PGA Championship was put on hold for two years because of World War I. It was resumed in 1919, at the Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, N.Y. Barnes was again the Champion, turning back Fred McLeod, 6 and 5. The following year, Hutchison avenged his defeat, becoming the last internationally born winner for a decade. He defeated Douglas Edgar, 1-up.

With the "Roaring Twenties" in full stride, the next nine PGA Championships were won by three different players: Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Leo Diegel.

Hagen went on to win five PGA Championships, making the finals six times and winning four Championships in a row between 1924-1927. During the streak, "The Haig" won 22 consecutive matches before Leo Diegel captured the title in 1928.

From Hagen to Sarazen

At the age of 20, Sarazen became the youngest PGA Champion, beating Emmett French, 4 and 3, in the 1922 PGA Championship finals. The following year evolved into one of the most exciting finals in the history of the Championship, as Sarazen successfully defended his title by defeating Hagen on the 38th hole in the Championship's first extra-hole finale. Sarazen won the match by hitting a miraculous approach shot from the rough to within two feet of the hole.

Nicknamed "The Squire," Sarazen owns one of the most remarkable records in PGA Championship history. He qualified for match play 28 times, participated in 82 matches and had 57 victories and 25 defeats. When the Championship switched from match play to stroke play, he competed in four more Championships before retiring after a 1972 appearance. Not only was he the youngest champion, he became the oldest participant (70) when he played in the 1972 PGA Championship.

Denny Shute won consecutive PGA Championships in 1936-37, a feat that lasted until Tiger Woods in 2000.

Lord Byron and Hogan Dominate

Byron Nelson, a loser in extra holes in 1939, bounced back one year later to begin one of the most amazing periods in golf history. Nelson won the 1940 PGA Championship with a 1-up victory over Sam Snead. In 1941, Nelson made it to the finals for a third straight time, falling to Vic Ghezzi in an extra-hole match.

With the outbreak of World War II, the match-play field was reduced to 32 players. Even with the change, Snead called the 1942 PGA Championship, the first of seven major triumphs, his biggest thrill in golf. He defeated Jim Turnesa, 2 and 1, in the finale.

Golf took a back seat to the War in 1943, and the PGA Championship was canceled. When the event resumed in 1944, underdog Bob Hamilton, 28, upset Byron Nelson, 1-up. Nelson had appeared in four finals and won only once. The following year, Nelson defeated Sam Byrd in the finals, 4 and 3, while continuing one of sport's most remarkable winning streaks -- 11 consecutive tournament victories.

The 1946 PGA Championship was Ben Hogan's first triumph in one of golf's four majors. Hogan then won a second Wanamaker Trophy in 1948, as he cruised past Mike Turnesa, 7 and 6, to become the first player since Sarazen in 1922 to win both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.

The 1950s was a challenging decade, with the passing of the Hagen, Sarazen, Snead and Hogan eras. After Snead's 1951 triumph, 19 different Champions were crowned from 1952-1970.

From Match Play to Stroke Play

With Lionel Hebert's 3-and-1 victory over Dow Finsterwald in 1957, a chapter in PGA Championship history was closed. The stroke play era began in 1958 before a televised audience in the millions, with Finsterwald's final-round 67 earning him the PGA Championship at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, Pa.

Jay Hebert's stunning triumph in the 1960 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club marked the first time that American brothers had scored victories in the same major Championship. PGA Professional Jim Ferrier finished one stroke behind, making him the highest finisher of any club Professional in stroke-play history.

Arnie's Missing Major

In 1962, South African Gary Player became the fifth foreign-born player to win the PGA Championship, as his 278 edged Bob Goalby by one stroke at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Jack Nicklaus won the first of his five titles in 1963, at the Dallas Athletic Club, overcoming 100-degree heat and third-round leader Bruce Crampton.

In 1964, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer both took a backseat to Bobby Nichols, who opened with a 64, and became the first wire-to-wire winner in the Championship's medal-play history. Nichols' winning total of 271 remained a Championship record until 1994.

Palmer also set a record with rounds of 68-68-69-69, making him the first player to post four rounds in the 60s in a major Championship.

This seemed to set a disappointing pattern for Palmer in the Championship. Just like Snead's U.S. Open "jinx," Palmer is considered by most golf historians as one of the best players never to have won a PGA Championship. Along with his runner-up finish in 1964, he finished second in 1968 and 1970.

In 1968, Julius Boros, then 48, survived sweltering Texas heat and a last-hole charge by Palmer to become the oldest Champion, at Pecan Valley Country Club in San Antonio.

Nicklaus Leaves his Mark

With his impressive victory in February 1971, at PGA National Golf Club (now BallenIsles Country Club) in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Nicklaus became the first professional to win the modern Grand Slam of golf for a second time. It also was the start of a 13-year run in which Nicklaus would win four PGA Championships, finish runner- up twice and place nine times in the top four. Nicklaus' 1973 Championship victory gave him 14 major Championships, surpassing Bobby Jones' mark set 43 years earlier. Nicklaus tied Hagen for the most PGA Championships in 1980, winning his fifth crown at Oak Hill Country Club by a record seven-stroke margin.

Nicklaus competed in 37 PGA Championships, finishing a record 14 times in the top five, while also posting the best record in the stroke-play portion of the PGA Championship.

After the 1976 PGA Championship, PGA officials abandoned the 18-hole playoff format to become the first major Championship to implement a sudden-death playoff. It was quickly put to the test, with the next three Championships decided in extra holes.

In 1977, Lanny Wadkins defeated Gene Littler on the third playoff hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. A year later, John Mahaffey rallied from an eight-stroke deficit and defeated Jerry Pate and Tom Watson on the second extra hole at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. In 1979 at Oakland Hills Country Club, Australian David Graham needed three extra holes to defeat Ben Crenshaw.

A New Generation of Champions

Bob Tway's final-hole bunker shot in 1986 at Inverness Club, to win the 1993 PGA Championship, signaled a new generations of Champions and special moments.

Payne Stewart won his first major Championship in 1989 at Kemper Lakes in Hawthorn Woods, Ill. In 1991, rookie John Daly completed a storybook finish at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. Without the benefit of a practice round, Daly, the ninth alternate, didn't get into the Championship until Nick Price withdrew the night before. Daly went on to finish with a 276 total, in a performance that ranks as one of golf's greatest surprise triumphs.

Nick Price returned in 1992 to win at Bellerive Country Club and carried his 1990s dominance with a resounding second PGA Championship title in 1994 at Southern Hills Country Club.

Valhalla Golf Club's first experience in hosting amajor championship came in 1996, and Mark Brooks birdied the 18th hole twice within 45 minutes to win a playoff over Kentuckian Kenny Perry.

Davis Love III turned in a memorable performance at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck,N.Y., finishing with an 11-under-par 269, for the lowest winning total in any major Championship held at the legendary course. Vijay Singh, a native of Fiji, earned his first major title in 1998 at Sahalee Country Club in Redmond, Wash.

Tiger Woods Ushers in a New Era

In 1999, 23-year-old 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, already a winner of the U.S. Open and British Open during the summer, made the PGA Championship's return to Valhalla Golf Club in 2000 perhaps the most thrilling climax in major Championship history. In the process, Woods became the first back-to-back PGA Champion since Denny Shute in 1936-37.

Woods and journeyman Tour professional Bob May, whose glossy record Woods had emulated as a youth in the Southern California junior ranks, engaged in a stirring final-round duel. After each making 18th hole birdie putts, they entered the first three-hole aggregate score playoff in PGA Championship history. Woods birdied the 16th hole, then saved par on the final two holes to edge May by a stroke.

Unheralded David Toms laid up for par on the 72nd hole in 2001 at The Atlanta Athletic Club, then made a 12-foot winning putt to defeat Phil Mickelson and post a 15-under-par 265, a major Championship record for 72 holes.

Rich Beem's stunning back-nine charge to a 4-under-par 68 elevated him past Tiger Woods to the title in the 85th PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

The PGA Championship special moments' tradition continued with Shaun Micheel's 2003 final-hole near-hole out for birdie at Oak Hill Country Club. In 2004, Vijay Singh earned his second PGA Championship, outlasting Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco in a three-hole cumulative score playoff at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., the longest layout (7,536 yards) in major Championship history.

In 2005 at steamy Baltusrol Golf Club, Phil Mickelson hit a flop shot from the deep rough on the 18th hole to within two feet and then tapped in for the winning birdie.

Tiger Woods marked his return to Medinah Country Club in grand style in 2006, by capturing in methodical style his third PGA Championship and 12th career major Championship and came back in 2007 at Southern Hills Country Club, winning a fourth PGA Championship during the hottest recorded week of weather in PGA Championship history.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington overcame Garcia in 2008 at rugged Oakland Hills with a strong back-nine rally, including a birdie on the 17th hole and a memorable par-saving putt on 18 to become the first European-born Champion since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930.

South Korea's Y.E.Yang stunned the golf world in 2009 at Hazeltine National Golf Club with a solid back-nine, including a chip-in for eagle on the 14th hole and closing birdie at 18 to chase down Tiger Woods and become the first Asian male player to win a major championship.