The Wanamaker Trophy, given annually to the winner of the PGA Championship, is the biggest trophy in major championship golf. Depending on who you ask, it may not be the most important, but it has size and stature to show it’s a big deal.
The PGA of America named the trophy after Rodman Wanamaker, a Philadelphia native and department store owner in Philly, New York and Paris, who was instrumental in the formation of the PGA of America in 1916. It was at that meeting of 35 at Wykagyl Country Club in New York that Wanamaker proposed the idea of an all-professional championship. He offered to put up $2,500 as prize money, as well other trophies and awards. Later that year, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.
The original Wanamaker Trophy, however, was lost by one of the PGA of America’s greatest champions.
Walter Hagen won five of seven PGAs from 1921-27, including four in a row at the end of the period. However, in 1926, Wanamaker lost the trophy and didn’t show up to that year’s PGA with it in hand, as was custom for a player to do after holding the trophy for a year. Pressed for the trophy’s location, Hagan, a showman, said he hadn’t brought it because he didn’t intend to lose it. He won the title. However, in 1928, Hagen didn’t produce the trophy after losing in the final of the then-match-play event to Leo Diegel at the Baltimore Country Club. Hagen’s final excuse was that he hired a taxi driver to transport the Wanamaker back to his hotel after winning in 1925.
The original Wanamaker turned up in 1930, packed away in a crate at L.A. Young and Co., who made his line of golf equipment. The original trophy remains at the PGA Historical Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Nowadays, the winner of the PGA Championship gets to keep the Wanamaker for a year after winning, a practice that had been halted for many years. It weighs in at about 27 lbs. and is about 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide from handle to handle. The top also comes off, which Rory McIlroy learned in 2014 when then PGA of America president Ted Bishop fumbled the trophy presentation. After the year is up, the winner, at their cost, can purchase a 90 percent replica of the trophy.