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John Renslow: Chase is on for Wanamaker Trophy

Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course Friday, in Kiawah Island, S.C.
Associated Press

Over the last year, the PGA Tour schedule has seen a lot of adjustments due to COVID. Likely the most notable change was the cancellation of the 2020 British Open.

In 2021, many things are back to normal, but if one wasn’t paying attention, they may not be aware of a significant move that was made pre-COVID.

This week is the PGA Championship. Yes, what used to be the fourth major tournament, occurring in August for decades, has been moved to the spring. Last year, it took place at Harding Park Golf Club in San Francisco. Yet, so early in the throngs of “shelter in place,” there were no spectators.



This year, the event is being held on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

More than a century ago (1916) a group of golf professionals gathered to develop what is now known as the Professional Golfer’s Association. From that meeting also came the concept of a national championship, a chance for the country’s golf pros to compete and determine who was best.



A department store magnate, Rodman Wannamaker, hosted the meeting, provided the trophy and purse ($2,500) for the event.

Fast forward and today, these hopeful club professionals and the household names alike still have the Wannamaker trophy as their goal.

Granted, these local club pros are not playing golf for a living. They may have played on a tour or tours and definitely try to keep their game in shape. Yet, they are now also selling merchandise out of their pro shop, giving golf lessons, and running tournaments for their club members.

They are club professionals from around the country. For many club professionals, the older they get, the better they used to be. However, a small percentage are in a club environment which encourages them to practice, play, and compete. Twenty of the nation’s best will be teeing it up with the world’s top players in the year’s second major.

Another aspect that makes this event unique is the venue.

It’s been quite a while since Kiawah Island has received national attention. But, if a few of the holes look familiar, the Ocean Course was featured in the film, “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” Also, the course is available on certain video games.

The Resort hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991, and more recently, the PGA Championship in 2012.

Designed by Pete Dye, you will see the trademark railroad ties and strategic bunkers that make for a very challenging day if the wind comes off the sea. His creations are often beautiful, yet diabolical.

Heading into the weekend, we have additional intrigue. Our man, Phil Mickelson, is on top of the leaderboard. He’s played well on and off this season, but hasn’t been able to string the good rounds together.

At a spry 50 years of age, Phil is chasing a 70-year old record. The oldest player to win a major is Julius Boros. In 1948, Boros won what was then a match-play event (the tournament became a stroke-play event in the 1950s) at the age of 48.

So, it should be fun for everyone as the boys of all ages chase the Wannamaker trophy and some history this weekend!

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

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