The PGA Championship was born in the mind of department store owner Rodman Wanamaker, who saw the merchandising possibilities in a professional golfers' organization. Wanamaker invited some prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives to a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York City. On Jan. 17, 1916, a group of 35 individuals, including the legendary Walter Hagen, convened for an exploratory meeting, which resulted in the formation of The PGA of America.
During the meeting, Wanamaker hinted the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Wanamaker believed that the Championship should be conducted similar to the British News of the World Tournament.
That Championship, a 36-hole elimination match-play tournament, was the PGA Championship of Great Britain. Meanwhile, both the British Open and the U.S. Open were played at medal (stroke) play over 72 holes. Wanamaker's offer was informally accepted, and seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y.
British-born professional Jim Barnes and Jock Hutchison, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, played in the final match of the inaugural PGA Championship. Barnes emerged a 1-up victor.
The site was Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. Bronxville is a suburb of New York City, just east of Yonkers.
The golf club still exists, not far from the more famous Wykagyl and Winged Foot clubs.
The U.S. PGA Championship was modeled after Great Britain's PGA Championship, which at that time was match play, so the newly created American PGA Championship also used a match play format.
Following several stroke-play qualifiers around the country, a field of 32 golfers advanced to the 1916 PGA Championship, and the first champion was Jim Barnes. Barnes defeated Jock Hutchison in the 36-hole championship match by a score of 1-up.
Winner Jock Barnes "left" pictured with Walter Hagen who also played in the first tournament.
With the "Roaring Twenties" in full stride, the next nine PGA Championships were won by three different players: Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Leo Diegel.
Hagen went on to win five PGA Championships, making the finals six times and winning four Championships in a row between 1924-1927. During the streak, "The Haig" won 22 consecutive matches before Leo Diegel captured the title in 1928.
Hagen to Sarazen
At the age of 20, Sarazen became the youngest PGA Champion, beating Emmett French, 4 and 3, in the 1922 PGA Championship finals. The following year evolved into one of the most exciting finals in the history of the Championship, as Sarazen successfully defended his title by defeating Hagen on the 38th hole in the Championship's first extra-hole finale. Sarazen won the match by hitting a miraculous approach shot from the rough to within two feet of the hole.
Nicknamed "The Squire," Sarazen owns one of the most remarkable records in PGA Championship history. He qualified for match play 28 times, participated in 82 matches and had 57 victories and 25 defeats. When the Championship switched from match play to stroke play, he competed in four more Championships before retiring after a 1972 appearance. Not only was he the youngest champion, he became the oldest participant (70) when he played in the 1972 PGA Championship.