For fans tuning into the PGA Championship, one of golf's four major championships, they may not be aware that it's the PGA of America who presents and runs this tournament rather than the PGA Tour.
So many casual sports fans assume the PGA of America and the PGA Tour are the same organization, or they assume the PGA Tour is a division of the PGA of America. That leads to confusion over the PGA Championship being a special, separate tournament from the unique events the PGA Tour presents, including The Players Championship and the season-ending Tour Championship.
For 50 years, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour have been separate organizations. This happened at a time when the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had established themselves as stars of the game in the television era. Exposure was increasing, and purses were expanding. The players didn't feel the PGA of America, which today is a 29,000-member organization of golf club professionals and teachers and other career golf-industry workers, was looking after the touring professional golfers as well as they should. The top players wanted to use the influx of TV money and, eventually sponsor money, to boost their livelihoods, rather than funneling much of that money back into the PGA of America.
Ultimately, Palmer, Nicklaus and others engineered a split from the PGA Tour in 1969, creating what was originally dubbed the Tournament Players Division. The Tournament Players Division was affiliated with the PGA of America, but the organization operated separately. The Tournament Players Division hired former long-time USGA executive director, Joe Dey, as its first commissioner, and the PGA of America's championship, the PGA Championship, continued to be recognized by the touring professionals.
In 1974, Deane Beman became the second commissioner and set the organization on a historic course. The Tournament Players Division was renamed the PGA Tour -- creating this confusion in the first place -- and the Tour and its tournaments were structured to run as nonprofit organizations, donating now billions to local and national charities. Tournament sponsor money runs through the nonprofit organizations, functionally making them a pass-through for charitable donations and payments to players.
Beman moved the PGA Tour from its headquarters in suburban Washington, D.C., to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where TPC Sawgrass is now. Beman also created the concept of the all-exempt PGA Tour, making it easier for a professional golfer to make a livelihood. Ultimately, the formation of PGA Tour Champions (originally the Senior PGA Tour), the Web.com Tour (originally the Ben Hogan Tour), PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour China come out of the desire to give members playing opportunities to fulfill their golf potential.
The PGA of America, long headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is comprised of regional sections which offer their own competitions, designed specifically for golf professionals instead of professional golfers. This includes the PGA of America Professional Championship, from which the top 20 finishers earn a spot in the PGA Championship. This tradition has been maligned over the years as weakening the tournament's field strength, but it is a tribute to the daily work of the member-driven PGA of America.
The PGA of America also owns half of the Ryder Cup, along with the European Tour. The PGA of America also presents the Senior PGA Championship, Women's PGA Championship, Junior PGA Championship, Junior Ryder Cup and other events. The PGA of America makes a massive amount of money when the United States hosts the biennial competition. The organization owns Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and they license the PGA of America name for PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.