PGA 90th Anniversary
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Jack Nicklaus
1980 PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus accepts the Wanamaker Trophy from PGA of America official Frank Cardi. (Photo: PGA.com)

90 Years of Excellence

Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has established new standards of excellence, by expanding educational opportunities, programs and services for its valued members. Now in its 90th year, The PGA stands firm and continues to flourish on the principles and ideals that were established by its founders. During the next decade, the PGA will celebrate nine decades of excellence, which began on Jan. 17, 1916, at the Taplow Club in New York City.

Celebrating its 90th anniversary as a leader in golf, The PGA of America also is committed to developing new programs, which bring both frequent and infrequent players into the game.

Recognizing the passion that millions share for golf, The Professional Golfers' Association of America -- through its more than 28,000 men and women professionals -- has dedicated itself to the growth of the game.

The PGA of America's origin can be traced to Jan. 17, 1916, when a group of New York-area golf professionals, accompanied by several prominent amateur golfers, attended a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York City. The luncheon host was department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss forming a national organization, which would promote interest in the game of golf and help elevate the vocation of golf professionals.

Wanamaker, who viewed the public's growing enthusiasm for golf as the beginning of a national trend, promoted the idea of an association to help accelerate the growth of the game. Little did Wanamaker or his guests realize that they were laying the groundwork for what would become the world's largest working sports organization. When that first meeting concluded, James Hepburn, a former British PGA secretary, had been named to chair a seven-member organizing committee.

Meetings were held over the next two months, and on April 10, 1916, with constitution and bylaws firmly in hand, 35 charter members created The Professional Golfers' Association of America in New York City. 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.

The first PGA Championship was held Oct. 9-14, 1916, at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. Jim Barnes defeated Jock Hutchison, 1- up, in the finals. Wanamaker honored his pledge and donated a purse of $2,580 and the trophy that still bears his name today.

In May 1920, the first issue of The Professional Golfer of America was published. Percy C. Pulver, a golf writer for the New York Evening Sun, who had attended the first meeting at the Taplow Club, was named editor. The magazine was renamed PGA Magazine in 1977, and today is America's oldest golf publication.

The Ryder Cup, which first matched PGA Professionals and their counterparts from Great Britain, inaugurated in 1927 with a 9 1/2 to 2 1/2 U.S. victory at Worcester (Mass.) Country Club. The Ryder Cup has developed into one of the preeminent events in all of sports, and in 1979, underwent a key renovation, when players from Europe joined the former British team.

In 1933, George Jacobus became the first American-born president of The PGA of America.

A dynamic and innovative leader, Jacobus was the first PGA officer to rise from the caddie ranks and was the first president to use the pages of The Professional Golfer of America to communicate directly with PGA members through a column in every issue.

The onset of World War II in Europe cancelled the Ryder Cup in 1939. By 1941, when The PGA of America celebrated its 25th anniversary, membership in the Association had grown to 2,041.

The Senior PGA Championship, which began in 1937 at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club at the invitation of course founder Bobby Jones, was moved to Dunedin, Fla., in 1945, and remained there through 1962. In 1954, Dunedin also became the home of the PGA Winter Tournament Program and the site of the PGA Merchandise Show.

Relocating the national office to Dunedin was discussed at the 1946 Annual Meeting, but the move didn't take place for another 10 years, when the second floor of the Dunedin First National Bank Building became The PGA of America's headquarters.

The Association celebrated its 40th anniversary with 3,798 members and 31 geographical Sections. PGA members flocked to Dunedin in the winter, and the Association continued to grow. By 1961, The PGA had moved the national office to larger quarters in Baywood, Fla., six miles north of PGA National Golf Club.

The PGA Winter Tournament Program had grown to four events, and the PGA Merchandise Show -- started in the parking lot of PGA National Golf Club by salesmen working out of their cars -- now was being staged in large tents. The need for more office space and additional playing facilities for even more PGA events created the need for another move. The PGA Merchandise Show has since found a home in the spacious Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The Show is the world's largest golf exposition.

PGA officials focused on the dynamic Florida East Coast and began talking with Palm Beach County developer John D. MacArthur. At the time, MacArthur wanted the impact of The PGA name to help sell his Palm Beach Gardens development. It took several sessions for both parties to finally reach the agreement that was finalized on October 30, 1964.

In March 1965, the Association moved into 10,000 square feet of office space in the east wing of the clubhouse in MacArthur's new country club, which for the next eight years would be known as PGA National Golf Club.

When The PGA of America was formed, there was no distinction between club and touring Professionals. As The PGA began to develop and promote tournaments, it became easier for the touring Professionals to devote their efforts to playing tournaments and exhibitions. In 1968, PGA tournament players, who comprised a small percentage of the membership, broke away from the Association to form a Tournament Players Division and acquire more control of the tournament schedule.

In 1975, the Tournament Players Division was renamed the PGA Tour. Today, the PGA Tour is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The PGA Tour and The PGA of America maintain a close working relationship, and most professional golfers maintain dual membership in the organizations.

In 1971, the 53rd PGA Championship, the first major golf Championship ever held in Florida, was played at PGA National Golf Club. Two years later, The PGA's relationship with MacArthur ended, and the national office was moved to a two-story office building in nearby Lake Park, Fla.

For the next eight years, The PGA of America searched for a permanent home, one which offered enough space for an expanding staff and the golf facilities to accommodate a growing tournament program.

An agreement eventually was reached with developer E. Llwyd Ecclestone Jr. Ecclestone built a multi-course development on which the national office of The PGA of America is located, within a 2,300- acre complex known today as PGA National.

The PGA of America staff moved into its present national office in February 1981, with a staff of 63. The building was expanded in 1990. A second office building to its west side was opened in 2001, which today houses PGA personnel representing the Finance, Creative Resources, Communications, Ticketing and Information Systems departments, along with representatives of Reed Exhibition Companies, which operate the PGA Merchandise Show and PGA Fall Expo.

In 1992, The PGA purchased the rights to the 13-year-old International Golf Show, the world's second largest golf exposition, from the Southern California PGA Section. Today, it is the PGA Fall Expo, featuring some 500 exhibitors and nearly 35 educational conferences. In 1998, The PGA sold its equity interest in both golf expositions to Reed Exhibition Companies of Norwalk, Conn., while maintaining a strategic alliance with Reed that would promote the growth of PGA Expositions into the 21st Century.

As part of its directive to acquire world-class sites to host the PGA Championship, The PGA acquired Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. The complete purchase was solidified following the 2000 PGA Championship. In addition, The PGA opened two of three 18-hole public golf courses at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The North Course made its debut on Jan. 1, 1996, and the South Course on May 16, 1996. The Dye Course was opened on Dec. 10, 1999.

In 1995, The PGA of America also purchased St. Lucie West Country Club, two miles from PGA Golf Club, and developed the course - now named PGA Country Club - into an award-winning layout that complements the nearby PGA Golf Club complex.

The first PGA Learning Center, a 35-acre state-ofthe-art practice facility, made its debut on Dec. 27, 1999. Expanding its educational vistas, the PGA Education Center was erected adjacent to the PGA Learning Center and opened on Nov. 8, 2001. The PGA Education Center, a 23,560-square-foot facility, features more than 11,000 square feet of classroom space and provides costefficient education programs to serve both PGA members and apprentice professionals. The PGA Education Center was designed to provide PGA apprentice professionals with affordable education, while eliminating waiting lists.

On Dec. 4, 2002, the PGA Historical Center was dedicated at PGA Village. Located between the PGA Education and Learning Centers, the 8,300-square-foot facility celebrates the growth of golf in the United States, as paralleled by the advancements of The PGA of America. The PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, which honors PGA members who have made significant and lasting contributions to The PGA of America and the game, is located at the back portico of the PGA Historical Center.

The PGA of America conducts more than 30 tournaments for its members and apprentices. Through a network of 41 Section offices, the Association maintains a total commitment to the PGA Professional, helping the membership meet the demands of today's marketplace and addressing vital issues, such as pace of play, environmental concerns and accessibility.

Since 1916, The PGA of America has established new standards of excellence, by expanding educational opportunities, programs and services for its members. In its 90th year, The PGA stands firm and continues to flourish on the principles that were established by its founders.

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