The history of the Wanamaker Trophy
Awarded to the player who wins The PGA Championship® every spring, the Wanamaker Trophy has been linked closely with golf for over a century and carries with it a rich history.
The origin story of the Wanamaker Trophy
The story begins in 1916. During this period, golf was not yet considered a mainstream sport and was mostly relegated to the quiet pockets of land around the United States. At this point, an American businessman had been working in the sport for a couple decades. He was the heir to the Wanamaker department store fortune, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, and he was ready for a special venture.
Wanamaker called a meeting of prominent golfers and figures in the budding industry. Following this meeting, The PGA of America was formed. It was in this meeting that Wanamaker also alluded to the sport's need for a major tournament, one that exclusively featured professionals. He offered to put up the prize fund, trophies and medals himself.
The first tournament in October 1916, soon called The PGA Championship, had a $2,500 purse and brand new silver trophy chalice. At about 2 feet high and weighing more than a small dog, the Wanamaker Trophy is a sight to behold.
The first player to have his name engraved on the Wanamaker Trophy in history was Jim Barnes, who won the first two PGA Championships. Soon after, another legend gained notoriety for winning The PGA Championship. His name was Walter Hagen, and his notoriety extended beyond the golf course, as we discuss below.
Who lost the Wanamaker Trophy?
At some point in Walter Hagen's PGA Championship streak from 1924 to 1927, the Wanamaker Trophy was lost. Hagen was actually one of the attendees at the unofficial meeting in 1916, which led to the formation of The PGA of America. Less than 10 years later he was presented with the Wanamaker Trophy after victory at the 1924 PGA Championship.
Hagen won the tournament consecutively after that, and a trophy presentation to memorialize each win may have seemed unnecessary. As a result, no one really questioned the trophy's whereabouts until 1926.
Poised for his third championship win in a row that year, Hagen was asked where the Wanamaker Trophy was. He offered a competitive stroke of wit—he didn't intend to lose The PGA Championship and return the trophy, so he didn't bother bringing it to the tournament.
Eventually, Hagen was dethroned at The PGA Championship and had to admit that he lost the Wanamaker Trophy. At best, the story is more of a legend now, but allegedly, the original trophy was lost one night in the roaring 20s, somewhere in Chicago.
How old is the Wanamaker Trophy?
A duplicate trophy was made circa 1926, during Hagen's winning streak, when he was no longer bringing the original trophy to the tournament. It wasn't until 1930 that the original trophy was discovered in the the cellar of the L.A. Young Golf Company. This is more ironic than random, as this cellar was in the factory that made Walter Hagen's golf clubs. We may never know if the trophy was truly misplaced or if it was kept somewhere inconspicuous to assuage a consummate pro's pride.
After the original 1916 Wanamaker Trophy was recovered, The PGA of America retired it, and it's now displayed at the Home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas. Every tournament winner's name is engraved to both versions, but at The PGA Championship's conclusion, the winner hoists the duplicate. This “new" Wanamaker Trophy, now about a century old, has had ample time to build a reputation and history.
Wanamaker Trophy facts: size, weight and more
This historic trophy may get taller if the base is extended, a fabrication which becomes necessary as names are added over time. Nevertheless, the Wanamaker Trophy has some impressive stats:
- 2½ feet (75 cm) tall
- 27 pounds (12 kg)
- 10.5 inches (27 cm) in diameter
- 2¼ feet (69 cm) across including the handles
The champion gets to keep the Wanamaker Trophy—the duplicate made circa 1926—for one year after it's presented at the tournament. The trophy must be returned in time to be presented to the new PGA Championship winner. Each champion does get to keep a replica for good after they return the version awarded annually—it's 10% smaller than the official trophy.
Who will win the Wanamaker Trophy at this year's PGA Championship?
Winners have their names engraved on the Wanamaker Trophy at The PGA Championship each year, directly before the closing ceremony. The famous Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen are enshrined on the trophy five times each. The next winningest player is Tiger Woods, who has won The PGA Championship four times.
Who will lift the Wanamaker at the 2023 PGA Championship®? The tournament will be played on Oak Hill Country Club's East Course from May 18 to 21. Review the ticket options and how you can watch along at PGAChampionship.com.