It’s nearly inconceivable to speak concerning the P.G.A. Championship‘s Wanamaker Trophy without mentioning how the five-time champion Walter Hagen lost it in Chicago after winning the event in 1925.
Because the story goes, while out in Chicago celebrating the win, Hagen gave his taxi driver $5 and asked him to take the cumbersome trophy to his hotel. It not only never arrived, but Hagen never admitted the loss to the P.G.A. until he lost the championship in 1928 and needed to turn the trophy over to the winner.
The trophy is tied to the history of the P.G.A. It was named after the department store owner Rodman Wanamaker, who in 1916 formed the Skilled Golfers’ Association of America.
“Rodman Wanamaker was an enormous fan of skilled golf and maybe even more so of Walter Hagen,” said Connor Lewis, a golf historian. “He believed that skilled golf was the best way of the long run — perhaps a decade ahead of most of the people — who at the moment believed within the ideals of the amateur game.”
Wanamaker invited a gaggle of golf professionals, including Hagen, to satisfy and form the association to assist elevate the skilled game.
“In those times skilled golf was not an actual occupation; it was frowned upon,” said Tom Clavin, the writer of “Sir Walter,” a biography of Walter Hagen.
Wanamaker had two essential motives, Clavin said. One was to form knowledgeable association to boost the position of golf. One other: Money.
“Let’s face it,” Clavin said. “There was a industrial motivation for forming the P.G.A. The person was a magnate of malls. By forming the P.G.A., he could make golf more popular, bring more people into playing golf and sell quite a lot of clubs, balls and clothing.”
The P.G.A. named the cup after him, and the primary P.G.A. Championship was held in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. Jim Barnes won the trophy, which was designed by Dieges & Clust — the identical company that created the Heisman Trophy in 1934. The P.G.A. silver trophy weighs 27 kilos and is greater than two feet tall and two feet wide, handle to handle.
“Wanamaker’s prestige and his bankroll gave golf an amazing jump-start, and it was perfect timing,” Clavin said. “It was after World War I, throughout the Roaring Twenties, and there have been increasingly more professionals playing. More people began following golf and desired to know who’s winning. There was Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen catching headlines. Professionals were beginning to storm the gates. And Hagen was leading the charge.”
Hagen won the primary of his five P.G.A. Championships in 1921, but didn’t win again until 1924. For the 1925 event, Hagen lugged the trophy to the event at Olympia Field Country Club, near Chicago. He won again — but that’s also when he lost it.
In 1926, Hagen defended his title without the trophy. It was P.G.A. policy for the winner to return the trophy the next yr, in line with Bob Denney. a P.G.A. historian. Hagen told officials, “I’ll win it anyway, so I didn’t bring it.” Hagen said the identical thing in 1927 to defend his title.
“That was Hagen — they only laughed it off,” Clavin said. “He was a showman and great for golf. Everybody was just winking — ‘Hey, that’s Walter.’”
It wasn’t until 1928, when Leo Diegel won, that Hagen confessed to losing the trophy. Again, it was awkward, but officials shrugged it off, Denney said. The missing trophy was replaced with one made by R. Wallace and Sons of Wallingford, Conn. It was ready by the 1929 PGA Championship, with Diegel’s name on it. Diegel successfully defended his title in that yr’s tournament and eventually took home a trophy, but it surely wasn’t the Wanamaker.
“You can be hard pressed to search out the Stanley Cup or the Heisman where the winner actually lost it,” Clavin said.
In 1931, the P.G.A. announced that the trophy had been found. A janitor cleansing the basement of the constructing that had once housed the Walter Hagen Golf Products Corporation in Grand Rapids, Mich., discovered a big box containing the trophy, Denney said. The way it got there stays a mystery.
“The taxi driver probably dropped it on the hotel, and the hotel sent it to his company headquarters,” said Paul Wold, a historian of Rochester Country Club, where Hagen was club skilled.
Hagen, not one for much introspection, didn’t give it one other thought, Clavin said.
“You get the impression he was an actual prince of a man,” Wold said. “People loved him, and he really just raised the full esteem of skilled golf.”
It’s difficult to top the Hagen incident, but there have been minor gaffes over time.
In 2014, on the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky, the trophy lid fell off as Ted Bishop, who was then the P.G.A. president, handed the trophy to the winner, Rory McIlroy — who caught it before it hit the bottom. “You saved me,” Bishop said.
On the 2020 P.G.A. Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, the lid fell off again. Collin Morikawa hoisted the Wanamaker, shaking it until the highest lid clanged off and dropped to the bottom. Morikawa clutched his chest, replaced the lid, gently lifted the trophy again and kissed it.
While the Wanamaker Trophy passes to a latest champion annually, winners also get a reproduction engraved on site to maintain. The P.G.A. has the unique, which can soon be on display at its headquarters in Frisco, Texas.
“It will be lousy to don’t have anything to point out for the win,” Wold said. “Wouldn’t it?”