If Only the Wanamaker
Trophy Could Talk!
Awarded to each year’s PGA Champion since 1916, the 27-pound silver trophy was believed to be lost in the late 1920s, was too hot to handle in 1963
THIS SUMMER, SEVEN YEARS AFTER RICH BEEM WON THE PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, he returns here to Chaska, Minn. And, once again, the Wanamaker Trophy will be awaiting the 2009 PGA Champion.
By Mark Craig
If only that 28-inch tall, 27-inch wide, 27-pound silver trophy could talk. What a pile of stories it could tell.
Like the one when four-time (1924-27) defending Champion Walter Hagen not only lost in the 1928 quarterfinals but claimed to have also lost the trophy. It showed up two years later in a Detroit warehouse owned by the Walter Hagen Golf Co. Hmm.
Or the time in 1963 when a 23-year-old
Jack Nicklaus couldn’t handle the trophy
after coming back from a
three-shot deficit to beat
Bruce Crampton on a
100-degree day at the
Dallas Athletic Club.
“I couldn’t even touch
the trophy,” Nicklaus
remembered earlier this
year. “They had to get
me a towel so that I
could raise the trophy.”
Or the time in
1993, when Paul
Azinger beat Greg
Norman in a playoff
at Inverness Club in
shoulder hurt so
badly that he could
barely lift the
months later, an X-
ray of that
a dark spot that was
diagnosed as lymphoma.
How about 2003, when Beem was
getting set to defend his title. He sat his
newborn son, Michael, in a replica of the trophy. “I thought it was cool,” says Beem.
Jim Barnes won the first two PGA Championships, but it’s Hagen who is most associated with the early days of the Championship. He won five in 15 tries.
From 1924-27, the Wanamaker Trophy belonged to Hagen. Once during that period, he was asked why he didn’t bring the trophy with him to that year’s Championship. He simply replied that he left it behind because he had no intention of giving it to someone else.
But in 1928, Hagen came up short to eventual Champion Leo Diegel at Five Farms Country Club in Baltimore. After the loss, Hagen was asked where the Wanamaker Trophy was. He plainly stated that he had lost it.
Hagen explained that he had entrusted the trophy to a taxi driver the previous year after winning at Cedar Crest Country Club in Dallas. The driver was told to return the trophy to Hagen’s hotel while “The Haig” celebrated yet another Championship as only the flamboyant Hagen could at the time.
Hagen claimed the Wanamaker Trophy never made it back to his hotel and he declared it irrevocably lost.
Two years later, the Wanamaker Trophy was discovered by an employee cleaning the cellar of a firm in Detroit that manufactured clubs bearing Hagen’s name. It was safe and sound in an unmarked leather case.
And now the 93-year-old trophy is back at Hazeltine National, ready for yet another chapter in PGA Championship lore. ●
The Wanamaker Trophy proved to be the perfect fit for 1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington and his daughter, Annie Elizabeth.