Rodman Wanamaker: The Man Behind the Trophy

(Plucked and updated from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

Rodman Wanamaker: The Man Behind the Trophy 1HERE’S WHAT THEY’RE PLAYING FOR in the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. (Plus $1.35 million, plus exemptions and endorsements galore, plus getting the major monkey off their back, if they’re Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, or others.)

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the Wanamaker Trophy. Shiny, isn’t it?

Of course, as with anything that’s 93, there’s a story behind it. It’s named after Rodman Wanamaker, a Philadelphia-born man of means who took up the cause of professional golfers when they were considered to be lowly working class and not allowed in the clubhouse or locker room. Think Walter Hagen era.

Wanamaker thought the treatment of pro golfers was wrong, so he spearheaded the formation of the PGA of America and its pros-only tournament, the PGA Championship. He launched the effort with $2,500 and ordered the silver cup. Every pro who teed off on Thursday playing for the $7.5 million purse should say a word of thanks for Rodman Wanamaker, a Princeton grad who owned the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph newspaper and financed designs for experimental seaplanes that made aviation history.

The original Wanamaker Trophy was huge—more than two feet tall and two feet wide (handle to handle) and weighing 27 pounds. That’s a lot of silver to hoist. Today the PGA of America awards a smaller replica to the winner.

Multiple Winners

Beginning in 1916, the PGA Championship was a match-play tournament until 1958 when TV helped dictate the move to stroke play. With Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus topping the list, following are multiple winners of the PGA Championship.

Walter Hagen 5

Jack Nicklaus 5

Tiger Woods 4

Gene Sarazen 3

Sam Snead 3

Jim Barnes 2

Leo Diegel 2

Denny Shute 2

Paul Runyan 2

Byron Nelson 2

Ben Hogan 2

Gary Player 2

Dave Stockton 2

Raymond Floyd 2

Lee Trevino 2

Larry Nelson 2

Nick Price 2

Vijay Singh 2

Notable majors winners who didn’t win the PGA Championship and wish they had: Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: kompuder, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

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Neil Sagebiel

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