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This PGA champion lost the Wanamaker trophy.  Whoops.

It’s almost impossible to talk about the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy without mentioning how five-time champion Walter Hagen lost it in Chicago after winning the event in 1925.

According to the story, while in Chicago celebrating the victory, Hagen gave his cab driver $5 and asked him to take the bulky trophy to his hotel. Not only did it never happen, but Hagen never admitted defeat to the PGA until he lost the championship in 1928 and had to present the trophy to the winner.

The trophy is tied to PGA history. It is named after department store owner Rodman Wanamaker, who in 1916 established the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

“Rodman Wanamaker was a huge fan of professional golf and perhaps even more of Walter Hagen,” said Connor Lewis, a golf historian. “He believed that professional golf was the way of the future – perhaps a decade ahead of the general public – who at the time believed in the ideals of amateur play.”

Wanamaker invited a group of golf professionals, including Hagen, to meet and form the association to help elevate the professional game.

“At that time, professional golf was not a real occupation; it was frowned upon,” said Tom Clavin, author of “Sir Walter,” a biography of Walter Hagen.

Wanamaker had two primary motives, Clavin said. One was to form a professional association to improve the position of golf. Another: money.

“Let’s face it,” Clavin said. “There was a business motivation to form the PGA. The man was a department store tycoon. By creating the PGA, he could make golf more popular, get more people to play golf, and sell a lot of clubs, balls, and apparel.

The PGA gave the cup its name and the first PGA Championship was held in 1916 at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, NY Jim Barnes won the trophy, which was designed by Dieges & Clust – the same company that created the Heisman Trophy in 1934. The PGA Silver Trophy weighs 27 pounds and measures over two feet high and two feet wide, handle to handle.

“Wanamaker’s prestige and bankroll got golf off to a great start, and it was perfectly timed,” Clavin said. “It was after World War I, during the Roaring Twenties, and there were more and more professionals playing. More and more people started following golf and wanted to know who was winning. There were Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen making headlines. Professionals were beginning to storm the doors. And Hagen was leading the charge.

Hagen won the first of his five PGA Championships in 1921, but did not win again until 1924. For the 1925 event, Hagen carried the trophy to the event at Olympia Field Country Club near Chicago . He won again – but that’s also when he lost it.

In 1926, Hagen defended his title without the trophy. It was PGA policy for the winner to return the trophy the following year, according to Bob Denney. a PGA historian. Hagen told officials, “I’ll win it anyway, so I didn’t bring it.” Hagen said the same thing in 1927 to defend his title.

“It was Hagen – they just laughed it off,” Clavin said. “He was a showman and a great golfer. Everyone was just winking – ‘Hey, it’s Walter.’ »

It wasn’t until 1928, when Leo Diegel won, that Hagen confessed to losing the trophy. Again, it was embarrassing, but officials ignored it, Denney said. The missing trophy was replaced with one made by R. Wallace and Sons of Wallingford, Connecticut. It was set for the 1929 PGA Championship, with Diegel’s name on it. Diegel successfully defended his title at that year’s tournament and eventually won a trophy, but it wasn’t the Wanamaker.

“You’d be hard pressed to find the Stanley Cup or the Heisman where the winner actually lost it,” Clavin said.

In 1931, the PGA announced that the trophy had been found. A janitor cleaning the basement of the building that once housed the Walter Hagen Golf Products Corporation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, discovered a large box containing the trophy, Denney said. How he got there remains a mystery.

“The taxi driver probably dropped him off at the hotel, and the hotel sent him to his company headquarters,” said Paul Wold, historian of the Rochester Country Club, where Hagen was a club professional.

Hagen, who isn’t one to do much introspection, didn’t give it much thought, Clavin said.

“You feel like he was a real prince of a guy,” Wold said. “People loved him and he really raised the overall esteem of professional golf.”

It’s hard to top the Hagen incident, but there have been minor gaffes over the years.

In 2014, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky, the lid of the trophy fell off when Ted Bishop, who was then PGA President, presented the trophy to winner Rory McIlroy – who grabbed it before he could. touches the ground. “You saved me,” Bishop said.

During the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, the lid fell. Collin Morikawa hoisted the Wanamaker, shaking it until the top cover came loose and fell to the ground. Morikawa gripped his chest, replaced the lid, gently lifted the trophy and kissed it.

As the Wanamaker Trophy moves on to a new champion each year, winners also receive an on-site engraved replica to keep. The PGA has the original, which will soon be on display at its headquarters in Frisco, Texas.

“It would be ugly to have nothing to show for the win,” Wold said. ” Is not it ? »

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