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PGA Championship 2023: Its Evolution and Qualification Process

The PGA Championship is, as the abbreviation suggests, the only one of the four majors that is organised for professionals only. The PGA has mainly been played on the eastern half of the Unites States and usually it is scheduled last in the season, as indeed the slogan "The Season's Final Major" suggests. As such, it is a highlight for those who enjoy betting on golf professionals.

Originally, it was a match play event, but due to it losing money, from the 1957 tournament it became a stroke play competition with the standard 72-hole format of 18 holes per day for four days, Thursday to Sunday. Considering that during the 1960s there was only a week break between the British Open and the PGA it is surprising that so many even competed in both!

The PGA Championship first took place in October 1916 at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. It was won by Jim Barnes, who received $500 together with a diamond-studded gold medal donated by Rodman Wanamaker. Today, winners of The PGA are awarded the famous Wanamaker Trophy to keep for one year, and a smaller-sized replica to keep.

The Wanamaker Trophy – One of Golf’s Most Famous Prizes

The extravagant trophy stands at an impressive 2.5 feet (75cm) and weighs in at a mighty 12kg. It is also known as the Wanamaker Cup, after Rodman Wanamaker the famous American businessman and heir to the Wanamaker Department Store. Rodman Wanamaker was a pioneer in sponsoring record-breaking aviation projects and in particular, an important early backer of transatlantic flight. Funny to think that the trophy was lost for a few years until it showed up in 1930 in the cellar of L.A. Young and Company. Ironically, this cellar was in the factory that made the clubs for the man responsible for losing it, Walter Hagen.

Back in 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of 35 prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives, including the legendary Walter Hagen, and the “Father of American Golf” Alexander A. Findlay to a lunch at the famous Taplow Club in New York, which resulted in the formation of the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA). During the meeting, Rodman Wanamaker hinted that 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.

At the historic meeting, many things were discussed and agreed; to elevate the standards of the golf professionals’ vocation, to protect the mutual interest of its members and to hold meetings and tournaments for the benefit of members. Its ambition for the time was huge, which was to assist deserving unemployed members in obtaining positions and establish a benevolent relief fund for deserving members. The meeting was a great success and, as they say, the rest is history!

How Players Qualify for the PGA Championship

Like the other major championships, entry is tough but there are many different ways to qualify. Naturally as this is the only major that does not allow entry by amateurs, the qualification processes albeit numerous are stringent. We must bear in mind that once upon a time golf was dominated by very wealthy amateurs who tended to resent the professionals that made a living from the game. This friction between the old money and the new players still characterises the PGA as a professional only tournament and still makes it very clear that amateurs are not welcome! Theoretically, amateurs are able to enter the event, although this is only possible if they win one of the other Majors or a PGA Tour event while playing on a sponsor’s exemption.

At present, the following qualify for the tournament:

  • The winners of the last five U.S. Opens.
  • All former PGA Champions.
  • The Winners of the last five Open Championships.
  • The Winners of the last five Masters.
  • The current PGA Champion
  • Winners of the last three The Players Championships.
  • The low 15 scorers and ties in the previous PGA Championship.
  • The 20 low scorers in the last PGA Professional Championship.
  • The 70 leaders in official money standings on the PGA Tour (starting one week before the previous year's PGA Championship and ending two weeks before the current year's PGA Championship).
  • Members of the most recent Ryder Cup Teams, as long as they are in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of one week before the start of the tournament.

A Record Breaking Tournament

The PGA Championship has produced many of golf’s special moments. It regularly attracts the strongest field in golf, including the greatest number of international players of any U.S.-based major. Since 1994, the PGA Championship has featured the most top 100 rated players from the Official World Golf Rankings.

Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship four times. Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen hold the record for most PGA Championship titles, with five each. The PGA Championship has produced a trio of consecutive history-breaking finishes. In 2008, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington became the first European in 78 years to capture the Championship. In 2009, Y.E. Yang of South Korea stunned the golfing community when he became the first Asian-born male player to win a major golf championship. Martin Kaymer added to PGA Championship history in 2010 when he emerged from a playoff to become the first from Germany to capture the season’s final major.

The PGA Spread its Wings

The Senior PGA Championship, which began in 1937 at Augusta National Golf Club at the invitation of course founder Bobby Jones, was moved to Dunedin in 1945 and remained there until 1962. In 1954, Dunedin also became the headquarters of the PGA Winter Tournament Program and the site of the PGA Merchandise Show.

In 1956, The PGA celebrated its 40th anniversary with 3,798 members and 31 geographical sections. PGA members flocked to Dunedin in the winter, and the Association continued to grow. By 1961, The PGA had moved the national office to larger quarters in Baywood Florida, six miles north of The PGA National Golf Club.

In March 1965, the Association moved into 10,000 square feet of office space in to MacArthur’s new country club, which for the next eight years would be known as PGA National Golf Club.

In 1968, PGA tournament players, although the minority, broke away from the Association to form a Tournament Players Division and gained more control of the tournament schedule.

By 1975, the Tournament Players Division was renamed the PGA Tour, which today is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach Florida. The PGA Tour and The PGA of America maintain a close working relationship and most tour professionals maintain dual memberships in both organizations.  In 1992, The PGA bought the rights to the 13-year-old International Golf Show, the world’s second largest golf exposition, from the Southern California PGA Section. Today the PGA Expo serves as a vital marketplace for the global golf industry to gather in the end of the season on the West Coast.

Educating a New Generation of Golfers

The PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance, a huge 35-acre facility, was established in December 1999.  Later, for the benefit of all golfers, the PGA Education Center was opened in November 2001. The Center features more than 11,000 square feet of classrooms and provides cheap education programs to serve both PGA members and apprentice professionals.

The PGA organises more than 30 tournaments for its members and apprentices. With 41 Section offices, it maintains a total commitment to its professionals, helping the membership meet the demands of today’s marketplace and addressing issues that are vital to the golf industry.

Through such devotion and commitment to the game The PGA of America proudly displays its brand as the “gold standard” of the golf profession. It is a brand that has come to represent the entire golfing community, including players and fans, and a commitment to preserving the sport’s heritage whilst raising its profile.

Since its inception in 1916, The PGA has established new standards of excellence, by expanding educational opportunities, programmes and services for its members. Today it represents excellence in the sport and provides a fantastic opportunity to bet on the world’s leading pro golfers.

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