Mr. September: Walter Hagen & the PGA Championship
Golf icon Walter Hagen won four of the ten PGA Championships held in September, with two of those victories coming in the empire state.
Reggie Jackson earned the nickname "Mr. October" for his dominance in postseason baseball while with the New York Yankees. The PGA Championship has a "Mr. September" of its own, as golf icon Walter Hagen won four of the ten PGA Championships held in September, with two of those victories coming in the empire state.
The tournament's September era ran when the PGA Championship played a match-play format, with Jim Barnes winning the first in 1919 and Byron Nelson claiming the last in 1940.
While the last one held in September dates back to before World War II, plenty of PGA Championship history and infamy was made during the beginning of the fall season.
Like Jackson, New York is almost the home of September PGA Championship golf. It held the tournament five times during September, with no other state hosting more than once. Long Island is the only city to host twice, hosting at Engineers Country Club in 1919 and Salisbury Golf Links in 1926.
Barnes’s September 1919 victory earned him history quickly. Despite a two-year tournament hiatus due to World War I, Barnes defended his victory at the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916. He's the first of seven players ever to go back-to-back.
The following two September champions also successfully defended titles over their PGA Championship career. Walter Hagen won his first of five titles at Inwood Country Club in Far Rockaway, N.Y. in 1921. The Haig won five times, tied with Jack Nicklaus for the most ever PGA Championships. Gene Sarazen won in 1923 at Pelham Manor in N.Y., defending his 1922 title. Sarazen joins Hagen and Nicklaus as one of five players to ever win the PGA Championship three or more times: Tiger Woods and Sam Snead round out the heralded group.
Hagen took off on a still-since unmatched streak of four straight victories in 1924 at French Lick Springs, Ind. The first three all came in September.
In how historically dominant Hagen’s run is, no one else has won three in a row, let alone four.
Hagen had a unique inspiration to keep winning after his 1925 win at Olympia Fields. Then, in September 1926, he arrived at Salisbury Golf Links in one of the tournament's most infamous moments.
The defending champion arrived without the Wanamaker Trophy.
At the time, Hagen declared he had no intention of handing the Wanamaker to anyone else. But, while the details are blurry with the passing of almost 100 years, the Haig later revealed he lost it while celebrating his 1925 victory.
Hagen went on to win in 1927 and broke his streak in 1928, non-September PGA championship years. However, his losing the Wanamaker impacted the subsequent two September iterations of the tournament. In 1930, Tommy Armour received a replacement trophy, smaller than the Wanamaker with a gold plate, because they recovered it too late following its five-year disappearance to hand it to him at Fresh Meadows Country Club.
Thus, Tom Creavy’s September victory in 1931 at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I., became the first time the PGA gave the trophy to anyone besides Hagen since 1925.
Olin Dutra's September 1932 win at Keller Golf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, was the first time North Star state held the PGA Championship.
Closing out the September era, Byron Nelson's victory in 1940 served as the dawn of another PGA Championship icon's rise. Nelson beat Snead 1 up at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Penn. It was Snead's second runner-up at the event before earning his first of three PGA Championships in 1942.
And that’s just September’s chapter of PGA Championship lore.