The PGA Championship started over eighty years ago, out of a meeting arranged by a department store magnate, Rodman Wanamaker. He invited various big names in golf and other representatives within the industry to have lunch at the Tarpow Club in New York City. Wanamaker had an idea about making money through sales of merchandise through the formation of an professional golf association.
On January 17, 1916, the legendary Walter Hagen, along with 34 other golf professionals met with Wanamaker for a discussion over lunch. One of the ideas presented by Wanamaker involved having a tournament for professional golfers, which he was willing to put up $2,580 for, along with a trophy. Many of his thoughts corresponded to running the Championship similar to the way British News presented the "World Tournament" referred to as the PGA Championship of Great Britain. This was 36 holes in an elimination match play format. Both the first and second rounds were 18 holes each and played within one day. The rest of the matches were 36 holes.
Robert White, Jack Mackie, John Hobens, James Hepburn, James Maiden, Herbert Strong, and Gilbert Nicholls were among those chosen to organize the committee for The PGA of America. On April 10, 1916 in New York City The PGA of America formed with 35 charter members.
On October 10-14 of that same year, the first PGA Championships at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York was held. In the semifinals, there remained three British-born golfers and one American, Walter Hagen. Hagen ended up losing to Jock Hutchison on the 12th and 13th holes. Hutchison went on to play James M. Barnes, who won. Barnes received a diamond medal, along with $500, while Hutchison received a gold medal and $250.
In 1917 & 1918, no PGA Championships took place due to the First World War. In 1919, the PGA Championships resume for the second time at Engineers Country Club. Jim Barnes wins again, successfully keeping his title against Fred McLeod. The first American born winner is Walter Hagen in 1921, as he defeats the two time PGA Champion Jim Barnes, while playing at the Inwood Country Club in Far Rockaway, N.Y.
At the age of 20, Gene Sarazen becomes the youngest player to ever win the PGA Championship in 1922, repeating in 1923 by defeating Walter Hagen at the Pelham Country Club in Pelham Manor, N.Y.
The popularity and prestige of the event grows over time, and more than 10,000 people gathered at the finals of the 1953 PGA Championship in order to watch Walter Bukemo win the match against Torza.
1958 is the year the PGA Championship shifted from match play to stroke play. Dow Finsterwald wins his first victory at the 40th PGA Championship at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, PA under the new format. This is also the first televised Championship, appearing on CBS-TV.
In 1971 Jack Nicklaus becomes the first professional golfer to win the Grand Slam of Golf, with the U.S. Open, British Open, Masters and PGA Championship titles. Gary Player makes one of the most amazing shots the year following to win the title. Jack Nicklaus breaks another record in 1973, as he erases Bobby Jones record of 43 years and replaces it with his own by winning his 14th major championship.
The first rain delay in tournament history occurred at the 1976 PGA Championship. Despite this, a record setting 115,450 spectators attend the four-day event to watch as Dave Stockton take the win. A year later, history is made again as the first ever sudden-death playoff takes place between Lanny Wadkins and Gene Littler in the 1977 PGA Championship, resulting in a win for Wadkins.
At the start of 2000, Tiger Woods becomes the first to win back to back Stroke play PGA Championships by defeating Bob May in the historic three hole cumulative score playoff, held at Valhalla Golf Club. This created the highest ratings yet seen for the event since 1986. Tiger Woods goes on for the third time in four years, to claim the name of PGA Player of the year.
In 2001, the Slugger Museum opened in honor of past Champions and host exhibits of PGA Championship.
Nine decades later, the PGA Championships become one of the most highly watched events in the world. Every year brings new surprises with the introduction of new players. Now over 100,000 spectators regularly gather to watch the event at the finest courses across the country.
Previews for past PGA Championships: