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On & Off the Course

August 4, 2007

On and Off the Course: When did the Masters and PGA Championship become majors?

When I begin working on one of these Sunday columns for the Tribune-Star, there is usually some amount of research I do to get me started, usually through the Internet but I also use magazines or books.

For this weeks’ column I had a question in mind that I wanted to find an answer to, but I have drawn a blank. When did the Masters’ and The PGA Championship replace the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur as golf’s majors? Seems like a perfectly viable question to me.

Sure, I can go to the History section of the PGA Championship web site and find out when the first PGA Championship was played (1916), but that’s not when it became a major. The Masters Tournament was first played in 1934, four years after Bobby Jones won what was then the grand slam of golf. So was 1934 the year when the major championships changed?

From what I can decipher from all the different histories I’ve read, it would be hard to pinpoint a year when the majors changed.

What we today consider the “modern” majors, might be a media invention, or maybe a PGA tour invention, as the popularity of events changed. Although four golfers are credited with having won the four current majors in their lifetimes: Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods. Gene Sarazen capped his off in 1935 with his Masters win, so perhaps that is the beginning of the modern majors.

• What to know about the PGA Championship — The PGA Championship was the result of a meeting held on January 17, 1916, hosted by department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker, with Walter Hagen and 34 other golf professionals in attendance. Wanamaker said he would provide a trophy for the event and a purse of $2,580 for the match play event.

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