When Walter Hagen Lost The Wanamaker Trophy

Legendary golfer Walter Hagen had some troubles with the Wanamaker Trophy in the 1920s

Walter Hagen and the Wanamaker Trophy pictured
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The famous PGA Championship Wanamaker Trophy is the biggest and heaviest trophy in Major Championship golf. It is 28 inches tall, 10 ½ inches in diameter, 27 inches across at the handles, and it weighs 27 pounds.

However, that didn’t stop Walter Hagen losing it in the 1920s.

The great Hagen won the PGA Championship five times, and four times consecutively from 1924 to 1927.

When Hagen won in 1926 he had failed to bring the Wanamaker Trophy to Salisbury Golf Links in New York, and he covered over the embarrassment by claiming he had come to defend his title and had no intention of relinquishing the grand silver cup.

Everyone laughed, as everyone always did at the ‘Haig’s’ jokes. Hagen was not found out until 1928.

The PGA was a match play tournament in those days, and he lost in the quarter-finals to Leo Diegal, and Diegal would go on to win. Hagen then had to sheepishly, belatedly admit to having lost it. Diegal must have been reasonably upset.

It is not exactly clear what happened to the trophy, but it seems likely that Hagen lost it amid his celebrations after winning the 1925 PGA Championship at Olympia Fields, Chicago. Never one to forego a party, Hagen had apparently paid a cabbie $5 to return the Wanamaker Trophy to his hotel while he stopped off at a nightclub. It is thought the trophy never reached the hotel.

The PGA of America had a duplicate Wanamaker Trophy made, but then in 1930, the original trophy was found in an un-marked box in the basement of L.A. Young & Company in Detroit, the firm that manufactured the Walter Hagen line of golf clubs.

No explanation of how or why the trophy ended up there has ever been uncovered, and the PGA of America retired the original to the safety of its museum in Florida.

Wanamaker Trophy general image

The Wanamaker is the largest, and heaviest, of the four men's Major trophies

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At least the original Wanamaker Trophy is still with us, which is more that can be said of the US Open trophy, which has twice been lost in clubhouse fires, the original in 1925 and its replacement in 1946. The first replica made is the one still presented to the champion each year, and there have been a couple of smaller incidents with it.

For example the Wanamaker Trophy had been left outside in blazing sunshine all afternoon at Dallas Athletic Club in 1963, and was too hot to pick up for eventual winner Jack Nicklaus.

Related: 10 things you didn't know about the PGA Championship

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x