Here at Rec Source, we’re suckers for stories weave the rich history of famous sports trophies and the entertainment value of a good mystery. The lavish, oral history that attaches to these renowned trophies could fill a library’s worth or books but there are only a handful of trophies in the sports world that possess the storied history like the Wanamaker Trophy, the prize for winning the PGA Championship in golf.
If the Wanamaker Trophy could talk it could spin yarns about partying with John Daly, burning Jack Nicklaus’ hands from baking in the hot sun, and most famously perhaps, it’s mysterious disappearance of the trophy in the early 1920’s.
The Wanamaker Trophy has been the symbol of the PGA Championship since 1916 when Rodman Wanamaker formed The PGA of America and created one of the first ‘professional-only’ golf tournaments. The 28-inch high silver cup was etched with the winner’s name each year and given to the victor to keep until the following year’s tournament. Walter Hagen was among the first few years’ winners and then he went on a streak, winning the PGA Championship from 1924 -1927. In that time, the whereabouts of the Wanamaker was unknown. In 1926 at Hagen’s award ceremony he was asked why he didn’t have the trophy, and Hagen replied that he hadn’t brought it with him because he had no intention of surrendering it.
However, that’s just what happened in 1928 when Leo Diegel upset Hagen in the quarterfinals and went on to win the title at Five Farms Country Club in Baltimore. When prompted for the trophy, Hagen sheepishly admitted he had lost the trophy during his extended reign.
Well, the story goes that Hagen went out partying in Chicago after winning his seventh major championship, his second PGA title. After a few drinks here and a few there, Hagen was sick of lugging the Wanamaker around with him and paid a cabbie $5 to deliver it back to his hotel, but it never arrived.
Two years later, after a duplicate was already made, the Wanamaker was found in Detroit in a dust-covered, unmarked case in the basement of the company that manufactured the Walter Hagen line of golf clubs. Misplaced? Lost? Tucked away? No one is 100% sure.
The duplicate is now used for the PGA Championship winners pose and the champ is given a slightly smaller replica to hold on to. Champions’ names are still added annually to the priceless original but it stays housed at the PGA Historical Center in St. Lucie, Florida for safe keeping.