The PGA Championship is the annual professional championship hosted by the Professional Golfers Association of America. It long has been the season’s final “major” (although it once was held in January), and is generally held four weeks following the British Open Championship.
That the PGA of America has its own championship —and indeed, that there’s a PGA at all—has much to do with the fact that professionals have been golf’s second class citizens for much of the recorded history of the game. Club and teaching pros were after all the servants of wealthy amateurs. At Open golf championships, gentlemen amateurs were introduced as Mister, while their professional counterparts were referred to without any honoriffic. Pros were not even allowed into the clubhouse at the courses where competitions were held; they were of the same status as the rest of “the help” and didn’t rate. In fact, it was not until the 1920 US Open at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio that the pros were allowed into the clubhouse.
In the United States, the formation of the United States Golf in 1895 led to the creation of two national championships to match those of the R&A’s Open Championship (1860) and British Amateur (1885). The US Open welcomed professionals in competition, but the USGA was, and remains, primarily an organization focused on amateurs.
Certainly feeling left out and under-served, a group of club professionals led by Walter Hagen met at New York’s Wykagul Country Club in January 1916 with department store owner Rodman Wanamaker. A month later, that meeting led to the formation of the Professional Golfers Association. The first Professional Golfers Association Championship was held later that year at New York’s Siwanoy Country Club. Jim Barnes won $500 and a diamond studded gold medal donated by Wanamaker.
The current trophy for winning the PGA is named for Rodman Wanamaker.
From its inception to 1958, the PGA Championship followed a match play format. That gave the PGA Championship a unique flavor, but made it unpopular among television producers, for the format could result in the marquee players being driven out before the weekend. (In this writer’s estimation, the change was a mistake that should be corrected).
The PGA Championship also has had some difficulty finding a place on the calendar. Prior to the 1960s, it often was played the week following the British Open, in late July. In 1971, it was played in Florida in February. It seems now to have firmly established itself in August.
It’s also worth noting that the PGA Championship is not a product of the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour split from the PGA of America in 1968, to form an association that focused on the needs of touring professionals. The PGA of America remained focused on “club” and teaching professionals. The PGA Tour, in fact, doesn’t manage any of golf’s “Majors.”
The PGA of America also organizes the Senior PGA Championship and with the PGA European Tour, the Ryder Cup.
Walter Hagen (1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927) and Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980) each hold the record with five PGA Championship victories. They played under different circumstances, however. Hagen won all of his in the match play format, while Nicklaus won in stroke, or medal play.
- Oldest winner: Julius Boros in 1968 (48 years, 142 days)
- Youngest winner: Gene Sarazen in 1922 (20 years, 174 days)
- Greatest winning margin in the match play era: Paul Runyan beat Sam Snead 8 & 7 in 1938
- Greatest winning margin in the stroke play era: 7 strokes, Jack Nicklaus in 1980
- Lowest absolute 72-hole score: 265, David Toms (66-65-65-69), 2001 (This is the lowest 72-hole score ever recorded in any major championship.)
- Lowest 72-hole score in relation to par: −18, Tiger Woods (66-67-70-67, 270) and Bob May (72-66-66-66, 270), 2000; Tiger Woods (69-68-65-68, 270), 2006
- Lowest 18-hole score: 63 – Bruce Crampton, 2nd round, 1975; Raymond Floyd, 1st, 1982; Gary Player, 2nd, 1984; Vijay Singh, 2nd, 1993; Michael Bradley, 1st, 1995; Brad Faxon, 4th, 1995; José María Olazábal, 3rd, 2000; Mark O’Meara, 2nd , 2001; Thomas Bjørn, 3rd, 2005; Tiger Woods, 2nd, 2007