Will Tiger Woods’ Name Be Etched on The Wanamaker and The Claret in 2012?
Even though one of the most prestigious awards that a sportsmen can receive is the Green Jacket that they don when the Masters Tournament has come to an end – one of the most monumental experiences of a golfer’s life – there are also other presentations that golfers dream of receiving before their career comes to an end. One is The Claret Jug (The Golf Champion Trophy) which is presented annually to the winner of The Open Championship. Of course, back in the 1800’s when the Open first began, this particular trophy did not yet exist. Instead, winners were presented with the Challenge Belt, which was made of rich Moroccan leather, and embellished with a silver buckle and emblems that made it look as if it were an ‘odd’ piece that Elizabeth Taylor could have added to her jewelry collection.
The Challenge Belt was actually the brain child of the Earl of Eglinton, who simply loved the world that included knights and medieval pageantry. He was actually the ‘leader’ who encouraged golf when all others were not paying much attention to the sport. He was the one who actually created The Open Championship.
It was in 1870 when Tom Morris, Jr. won the Open for the third consecutive time that a proposal was put forward to actually change the trophy. Apparently they were a little sick of giving Tm a belt (or, Tom was sick of receiving it). An agreement was reached, but not until 1872, when the trio of clubs that were going to host The Open – Prestwick, the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club – decided that the winner would receive a medal and a new trophy, which would be a silver claret jug.
The Golf Champion Trophy, now commonly referred to as The Claret Jug, was made in England and given to the Open Champion of 1873, Tom Kidd. But seeing as that Tom Morris had won the belt over and over and over again, his name was the first to be engraved on the ‘jug.’
It was also suggested in 1922 that the leading amateur to play in The Open should be recognized as well. This suggestion soon became a reality in 1949, when a silver medal that was the same size and design as the winner’s medal was given out. It was an American, Frank Stranahan, who was the first to receive that silver medal and won it not only in 1949 but also in 1950, 1951 and 1953.
Like the Green Jacket given at the Masters, The Claret Jug winner must also return the trophy before the next year’s Open is played, then they receive a replica to keep permanently. Three other replicas of The Claret Jug do exist: one is on display at the British Museum of Golf at St Andrews; whereas the other two are used for traveling exhibitions. Every year, the winner’s name is engraved on The Claret Jug before it is even presented to him, which became quite a large event for the British. The BBC, to this day, always shows the engraver on television ready to start his work (almost as big a deal as the opening of the envelope on the Oscar stage).
But the most interesting thing about The Claret Jug is simply the person behind it. Lewis Rodman Wanamaker had a long and amazing life that covered many different areas. When it came to politics, he was the Presidential Elector for the State of Pennsylvania in 1916. But Wanamaker ALSO created aviation history when his money was the reason why two experimental seaplanes were built and entered into a contest run by London’s The Daily Mail newspaper in 1913. These amazing ‘flying boats’ ended up becoming seriously important in the military and commercial aviation, and formed the basis for over thirty years of international commercial air travel.
Wanamaker was a dream-maker. Born in Philadelphia in 1863, this is a boy who lived every dream possible. In 1881, he entered Princeton. He was a noted singer who sang in the Princeton choir, and was a member and business manager of the Glee Club. Another club that had Wanamaker as a member was the now famous Ivy Club, which was the first eating club located at Princeton University.
This man was able to join his father’s business in New York and had the imagination and creativity to turn the department stores of New York into the ‘best of the best’ by filling them with top quality items from his previous home in Paris, increasing the American demand for French luxury.
Turning his sights on the world of media, Wanamaker bought the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph in 1911.
Wanamaker’s father was really the big deal in the family, and the son really wasn’t all that interested in becoming the ’big man.’ In fact, he loved his Paris life, his department store hype, and his newspaper and was content to live in the very large shadow that his father cast. He did sit on many boards located in New York City, and held what was once called, ceremonial positions. When his father did pass, the son took over and had holdings in so many different areas of industry that it was almost impossible to count. The oddest part was that the Wanamaker family built an absolute dynasty over the years, and every time one of them passed on their son – the next in line – received sole custody of each and every holding they had. This lineage was the only one to ever do such a thing – where all these businesses were placed in the hands of the same family with no boards of directors – just one man running his industrial world all by himself.
Now why would all this be important when speaking about golf? Because among his many paths in life, Wanamaker was also a huge golfer. It was on January 17, 1916 that Wanamaker invited a group of thirty-five of the most prominent golfers and other leading representatives to a luncheon he held at the Taplow Club in New York. He was actually just exploring an idea, but that one meeting (not a surprise considering what a wheeler and dealer this man was) resulted in the formation of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA).
During this meeting, Wanamaker brought up the fact that the new organization needed to host an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 dollars, trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. And since 1916, the PGA Championship has developed into one of the world’s premier sporting events. Each and every summer one of the nation’s most outstanding golf facilities plays host to golf’s very best professionals, as they compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.
The Claret Cup and The Wanamaker Trophy are the two awards that have become the essence of what golf is all about. Who knows what golfer’s name will be etched into these two legendary trophies in 2012? Is Woods coming back? Wait and See!
Until Next Time, Everybody.