10 Things You Didn’t Know About The PGA Championship

We look at ten unique facts about the second Major championship of the men's golfing calendar

A view of the Wanamaker trophy on the 12th hole at Oak Hill Country Club on June 7, 2021 in Rochester, New York
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The PGA Championship is one of four Major titles in the men's professional game. It can often be swallowed up in the excitement of Augusta National or the anticipation of the Open Championship and US Open but the fact remains, it is a hugely prestigious and coveted tournament. 

As the very best in the business ascend at Southern Hills for the 104th edition of the PGA Championship, we detail ten things that you may not know about the event. 

1. The Importance Of Rodman Wanamaker

It is perhaps well known that the winner of the PGA Championship receives the Wanamaker Trophy for their efforts but did you know that it's named after one of the most key figures in the history of the game?

Rodman Wanamaker was an American businessman with a key interest, among other things, in golf. In 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives to the Taplow Club in New York. This resulted in the formation of the Professional Golfers' Association of America - or the PGA.

Wanamaker insisted that the newly formed organisation needed an annual all-professional tournament and put up $2,500 of his own money and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in New York. 

The trophy that Wanamaker put up was the very same that is competed for today. It stands at 28 inches high, 10 and a half inches in diameter, 27 inches from handle to handle and weighs 27 pounds.

2. Change In Format

Between its inception in 1916 and 1957, the PGA Championship was a match play event. 

Following a consultation at the PGA of America meeting, the format changed to stroke play - starting in 1958 with the standard 72-hole format of 18 holes per day over four days. It is believed that network television broadcasters, who preferred a large group of well-known contenders on the final day, pressured the PGA of America to make the change. 

The PGA Championship has remained a 72-hole stroke play event since. 

3. The First Winner Was An Englishman

Jim Barnes swinging golf club

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James ‘Jim’ Barnes won the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916 when it was contested at Siwanoy Country Club in New York. Back then, the format was match play with the Englishman coming out on top in the 36-hole final against Jock Hutchinson.

Barnes was awarded $500 for his victory - which equates to approximately $13,000 today - as well as the Wanamaker Trophy and a diamond-studded medal. The tournament was then postponed for two years after World War I broke out but Barnes returned in 1919 and was again victorious. 

4. GENE SARAZEN IS THE YOUNGEST WINNER

Gene Sarazen hitting driver

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Gene Sarazen is the youngest winner of the PGA Championship when, in 1922, he defeated Emmet French at Oakmont Country Club. The American was 20 years of age when he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy for the first time. He would go on to defend his crown in 1923 and win a total of three PGA Championship titles. 

5. Walter Hagen Lost the Trophy

Walter Hagen speaks to the press

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Walter Hagen has won five PGA Championship titles - something only matched by Jack Nicklaus.

Hagen first lifted the Wanamaker Trophy in 1921 when he defeated Jim Barnes in New York. He then won four consecutive titles between 1924-1927; something that is yet to be matched today.

After his final victory in 1927, the Wanamaker Trophy was nowhere to be seen. So much so, it could not be awarded to the winners in 1928 and 1929 (Leo Diegel). It was later found in 1930, in the cellar of the company responsible for making Hagen's clubs! 

Hagen claims to have trusted a taxi driver to transport it to his hotel but it never arrived. Luckily it was retrieved and is back in the arms of the winner each year. 

6. No Amateur Invites

The PGA Championship is the only Major tournament that does not invite amateur players. As the tournament is governed by the PGA of America, which predominantly comprises of club and teaching professionals, the organisation has remained exclusive to professional golfers.

Elite amateur golfers have never received an invite to play in the PGA Championship but they would not be excluded in the event they qualified for the tournament. There are many ways to qualify for the PGA Championship but they would likely have to win the Masters, Open Championship or US Open.

The last amateur to win a Major championship is Johnny Goodman, who won the 1933 US Open by beating Ralph Guldahl by a shot at North Shore Country Club in Illinois. He never took part in a PGA Championship. 

7. Scoring Record

The lowest 72-hole score in the PGA Championship came in 2018 when Brooks Koepka fired rounds of 69, 63, 66 & 66 to post a 264 total at Bellerive Country Club in Missouri. The American held of a Sunday charge from Tiger Woods to claim his third career Major title with a score of 16-under par.

Whilst Koepka holds the lowest score at the PGA Championship, the record in relation to par belongs to Jason Day. In 2015, the Aussie posted scores of 68, 67, 66 & 67 for a 268 total and a 20-under par score at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. It was Day's first Major championship success. 

Jason Day holds the PGA Championship trophy in 2016

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8. Strength of Field

The PGA Championship is commonly the strongest field on the calendar. Of course, the absence of amateurs plays a part in that but the fact remains, if you want to lift the Wanamaker Trophy, you will have to beat a consistently strong field.

To put into perspective, the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) use a 'Strength of Field' rating to grade the field each week. Generally speaking, the higher the strength of field rating the more quality players in the field.

In 2021, the PGA Championship was ranked 916. This was higher than the Masters (761), Open Championship (863), US Open (865) and even the Players Championship (840).

9. Change In Schedule

The PGA Championship used to close the curtain on the Major championship season when it was played in mid-August but as of 2019, the tournament is played in May on the weekend before Memorial Day. It now serves as the second Major of the season following the Masters in April. 

Whilst its place is now firmly secured in the calendar, it was originally played in early fall but varied from May to December. After World War II, the Championship was either held in May or June but moved to July in 1953. In the 1960's, it took place the week after the Open Championship five times, making it virtually impossible for players to compete in both Majors. 

10. Slogan Controversy

As the PGA Championship was previously the final Major of the year, the tournament was promoted with the slogan: 'Glory's Last Shot.'

This irked then-PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, who believed the slogan weakened the stature of events that occurred after it, such as the FedEx Cup playoffs. The PGA of America were supportive and in 2013 replaced the slogan with 'This Is Major' before settling on 'The Season's Final Major.'

This year, the Championship includes the tagline 'First To Five' in honour of Southern Hills; which is hosting the tournament for the fifth occasion - more than any other venue. 

Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, host of the 2022 PGA Championship

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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.