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.

Diegel won in 1928 and 1929 but didn't get to lift the iconic trophy.

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.

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