History Of The Wanamaker Trophy

The Wanamaker Trophy has had an amazing journey to where it is today

Wanamaker Trophy pictured on the first tee at the PGA Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

History Of The Wanamaker Trophy

The Wanamaker Trophy, awarded to the winner of the PGA Championship, 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 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 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. It's still to this day one of the best trophies in golf.

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.

Walter Hagen pictured amongst spectators walking a fairway

Hagen won the PGA Championship in 1921, and then in four consecutive years from 1924 to 1927.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 quarter finals 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 it into a keg after his victory at Crooked Stick, but none could ever match the Hagen adventure of 1925.

Collin Morikawa reacts to dropping the Wanamaker Trophy lid

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Additionally there have been a couple of occasions where players have had accidents with the lid, the most recent of which was Collin Morikawa (opens in new tab) in 2020 at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park. Holding the trophy aloft resulted in the lid falling off and some comical reactions from the American.

The tournament winner keeps the Wanamaker Trophy for a year, with one of the perks of winning the PGA Championship being that the champion then receives a 90% replica once the original trophy has been returned.

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6