Since its inception in 1916, the distinctive Wanamaker Trophy has had somewhat of an amazing journey to where it is today
The Wanamaker Trophy has been around since 1916, and its birth symbolised everything we now love about the professional game, so let’s start right back at the beginning.
Early in 1916, Rodman Wanamaker, a sportsman and heir to a New York department store empire, summoned some friends including prominent golfers like Francis Ouimet and Walter Hagen to discuss the formation of a national organisation for professional golfers.
At the time, professional golfers were still considered hired help, and Wanamaker wanted to change that. His 1916 meeting resulted in the formation of The PGA of America, which would host a professional only tournament.
Wanamaker put up $2,500 of his own money for the prize fund, and ordered a silver cup to be played for.
A man with his vision demanded a great trophy, and so the Wanamaker Trophy (right) was born.
It stands at 28 inches high, 10 and a half inches in diameter, 27 inches from handle to handle and weighs 27 pounds.
Jim Barnes won the first two PGA Championships and was the first to have his name etched on the Wanamaker Trophy.
Then came Jock Hutchison, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, and then Hagen again, and it was after Hagen’s second PGA Championship victory that things got interesting.
Hagen took home the Wanamaker Trophy for four straight years, from 1924-27, and its whereabouts seemed insignificant.
He was asked at the 1926 award ceremony why he didn’t have the trophy, and replied that he hadn’t brought it with him because he had no intention of surrendering it.
But that’s just what happened two years later in 1928. Leo Diegel beat Hagen in the quarterfinals and went on to win the title, but when the time came for Hagen to hand over the Wanamaker Trophy after his long reign, he was forced to admit that he’d lost it…
The story around its disappearance is vague to say the least, but the gist is that Hagen went partying after winning his seventh major championship at the 1925 PGA Championship at Olympia Fields in Chicago. During his celebrations he jumped out of a cab to join some friends who were heading into a nightclub and left the Wanamaker Trophy behind.
Hagen claims he paid the taxi driver to deliver it to his hotel, but it never arrived. Instead, it somehow made its way from Chicago to Detroit, where it was found five years later in 1930 in an unmarked case in the basement of L.A. Young & Company, the firm that made Hagen’s golf clubs.
Lost? Misplaced? Tucked away? No one knows for sure.
In its absence, The PGA of America had a duplicate of the Wanamaker Trophy made. Once the original was recovered it was retired, and it is now on display at the PGA Historical Centre in Florida.
Champions’ names are still added annually to the original, but it is the more recent version that the PGA Championship winners now pose with.
The new trophy holds plenty of stories of its own, like the one about 1991 champion John Daly, who apparently turned into a keg after his victory at Crooked Stick, but none could ever match the Hagen adventure of 1925.