On the eve of having crowned its first winner 100 years ago, the PGA Championship is looking rather spry for reaching such a venerable age. Through notorious August heat, a switch from match to stroke play in 1958, more heat, a never-ending need to validate its major status and still more heat, the PGA keeps striving each year to have one of the greatest fields of the season.
The PGA is the third oldest of the four majors, started 56 years after the Open Championship and 21 years after the U.S. Open but 19 years before the Masters. Yet for decades, the PGA has been treated with wide disrespect as the fourth-best of them all. Being simply the championship of professionals is likely some of the problem. Some of it is self-inflicted, abandoning its so-so “glory’s last shot” motto for the even more trite “it’s major” and “the season’s final major.” But each year, the champion never turns away from accepting his laurels, and if it’s the fourth favored, it would be a bit like trying to determine which of your four kids you like least.
From the start, the PGA was for professionals only. It is the championship of the PGA of America, 28,000 men and women members who run golf shops, teach the game and work at making it more popular. We’ve already passed the 100th anniversary of the association’s origin in January. Because golf professionals lacked a cohesive association in the early 1900s, a group of them gathered in New York City to make plans to organize one. Ideas and proposals were put in motion and by April 10, 1916, 78 members ratified a constitution and bylaws.