The Pro Golfer Who Misplaced The Coveted Wanamaker Trophy

Named after Rodman Wanamaker, a department store impresario and early founder of the PGA, the Wanamaker Trophy is one of the most revered trophies in all of pro sports. As a reward for winning the annual PGA Championship tournament, the champion golfer's name is etched on the side of the trophy. It's made from real silver, stands 28 inches tall, and weighs 27 pounds. The Wanamaker was first given out at the inaugural 1916 PGA Championship, held that year in New York. The trophy — or a replica, if the player so chooses — also goes home with the champion golfer for one year. During that time, the golfer can do with it as they please. The prize is then handed over to whoever next wins the PGA championship, according to Golf Monthly.

You would think any golfer skilled and fortunate enough to bring home the Wanamaker would want to keep a careful eye on it. In the 1920s, though, one famous golfer and five-time PGA champion lost the trophy. At the time, though, he would not admit it. Incredibly, the pro golfer covered his tracks until some three years later, when he was forced to confess just what had happened. 

Walter Hagen lost track of the original

In 1925, the PGA Championship tournament was less than a decade old, and pro golfer Walter Hagen (above) had won his second of what ultimately would be five PGA championships. The legendary golfer would go on to win 11 majors in his career, and four PGA championships in a row, from 1924 to 1927, according to Golflink. As the Wanamaker's anointed caretaker, that PGA championship winning streak would provide convenient cover for Hagen's negligence.  In 1926, to explain why Hagen had not brought it to the next PGA Championship tournament to hand it over to the next winner, Hagen simply claimed he intended to win the trophy back anyway, which he did. Therefore, it didn't matter, according to the official PGA website.

By 1928, though, Hagen's run of four PGA championships was broken and he was forced to confess where the Wanamaker Trophy really was — or where it wasn't. He no longer had it, as Golf Monthly notes. Leo Diegal would claim the title that year, the first of two PGA championships he'd win in a row. Once Hagen's embarrassing error was revealed, a replica Wanamaker was produced. But by 1930, the original showed up once more. Just how had Hagen lost it, though, and where had the trophy been in the intervening five years since Hagen first brought it home?

Hagen allegedly paid a cab driver to take the trophy back to his hotel

No one knows for sure just how Walter Hagen lost the Wanamaker trophy back in 1925, but the most commonly accepted story states that Hagen decided to tie one on after his second PGA championship win, and since the Wanamaker Trophy is quite heavy, Hagen preferred not to carry it along with him. To solve that problem, Hagen purportedly tipped his  cab driver $5 to ferry the sizable silver object back to his Chicago hotel, where the PGA Championship tournament took place that year, as Golf Link notes. When Hagen returned to his hotel, he found the trophy missing.

Suspiciously, when the Wanamaker turned back up in 1930, it was in an unmarked box in the basement of the Detroit office of Hagen's golf club manufacturers, L.A. Young and Company. Nevertheless, Hagen stuck with his story. These days, the real Wanamaker Trophy still has the name of each year's PGA champion engraved on the side. The replica spends most of its time on display at the PGA Historical Center in Florida, as Golf Monthly notes. Winning golfers can now pay for a smaller replica of the Wanamaker to keep, per The Golf News Net