15 Things You Didn’t Know About The PGA Championship

How well do you know the second men's Major of the year?

PGA Championship winners in a montage
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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 that it is a hugely prestigious and coveted tournament. 

As the very best in the business ascend at Valhalla Golf Club for the 106th edition of the event, we detail 15 things that you may not know about the grand old championship... 

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 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.

Wanamaker insisted that the newly formed organization 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 a 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 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. 

Over 100 years later, no Englishman has won the Wanamaker since.


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 in Pennsylvania.

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 organization 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 either win the Masters, Open Championship or US Open or record high finishes at least.

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

Jason Day holds the PGA Championship trophy in 2015

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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 and the first ever winning score of 20-under in a men's Major. Henrik Stenson matched it at Troon in the 2016 Open. 

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.

The field is usually made up of almost all of the world's top 100 players according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

9. Change In Schedule

Brooks Koepka with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2019 PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka won the 2019 PGA Championship in May

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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 men's Major of the season following the Masters in April. 

While 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. Slogans

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

This was believed to have irked then-PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, who reportedly 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.'

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

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11. Champions dinner

Just like The Masters, the PGA Championship has a traditional Tuesday champions dinner where past winners assemble to celebrate the defending champion's triumph - with a menu selected by them.

It's reportedly less exclusive than The Masters Club, with spouses and other non-past champions allowed to attend.

12. The course that has hosted the most

The Wanamaker Trophy on the 17th hole at Southern Hills

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Despite New York State having hosted the most PGA Championships (13), it is actually Tulsa, Oklahoma's Southern Hills Country Club that is the venue to have hosted the most championships with five.

13. Largest winning margin

Rory McIlroy celebrates winning the 2012 PGA Championship

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Rory McIlroy holds the record for the largest winning margin in PGA Championship history, after triumphing in 2012 by eight strokes.

The Northern Irishman captured his second Major, and first of two PGA Championships, at Kiawah Island with a score of 13-under-par ahead of England's David Lynn in second at five-under.

The previous record winning margin was seven, held by Jack Nicklaus from his 1980 victory at Oak Hill.

14. Oldest winner

Phil Mickelson celebrates after winning the 2021 PGA Championship in South Carolina

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Phil Mickelson holds the record for the oldest ever PGA Champion as well as the oldest ever Major winner.

The left-hander won the championship for the second time in 2021 at Kiawah Island at the age of 50 years and 11 months, surpassing the previous record held by 1968 PGA Champion Julius Boros, who won at the age of 48.

15. Club pros

Block shouts as he walks through the crowds at the PGA Championship

Low club pro Michael Block sent Oak Hill wild in 2023

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Each year, the PGA Championship features a total of 20 club pros in the field who qualify via the PGA Professionals Championship.

The best finish from a PGA Pro in the PGA Championship was in 1970 by Tommy Bolt, who finished 3rd at PGA National Golf Club. It's becoming rarer and rarer for the club pros to make the cut, although Michael Block finished T15th in 2023.

The leading PGA Pro wins a Crystal Bowl.

Is the PGA Championship a Major?

Yes! The PGA Championship is the second men's Major of the year after The Masters, with the US Open following in June and The Open in July. Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen have each won five PGA Championships, the most of all time.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV