In America, golf is accepted as the perennial gentleman’s game. Until 1916, it was just that—a game.
Nearly 15 years after the establishment of the Professional Golfers’ Association of Europe, the PGA of America was born on April 10, 1916. That day in New York, 35 golfers became the first to sign the constitution and by-laws of the newly formed golfing organization.
A New York department store manager named Rodman Wanamaker helped initiate the idea. Believing professional golfers could increase equipment sales if they were part of a formal golfing association, Wanamaker got the process started by hosting New York-area professional golfers and well-known amateur golfers for a dinner party one night in order to discuss the idea.
Three months later, the PGA of America was founded. Started with just 35 initial members, the PGA of America has come a long way from its roots, as it’s grown into a behemoth sports association. Not only is it now the world’s premiere golfing association, but with more than 27,000 male and female members, the PGA of America is the world’s largest active sports organization.
In the PGA of America’s inaugural year, Wanamaker and the members decided to organize a championship tournament on behalf of the organization. Wanamaker put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals to be offered as prizes. As a result, the PGA Championship—one of the current four major championships—was born.
The tournament was held at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y., later in 1916, just months after the PGA of America was organized. Though the British Open and U.S. Open were both 72-hole stroke play events, the PGA Championship was originally set up as a 36-hole elimination match-play tournament. Jim Barnes, of Britain, beat Jock Hutchison, of Scotland, 1-up to win the inaugural event.
The PGA Tour, which is a branch of the PGA of America, now hosts dozens of professional domestic tournaments. It also partners with event hosts in the United States and abroad, essentially making it an international organization. The PGA Tour provides the most monetary awards for professional golfers, and its ranking system is used as the primary determiner for professional world rankings.
Unlike other professional sports organizations like the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL, the PGA of America has a global reach, helping to make golf one of the foremost international sports.