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First PGA Champion – Jim Barnes

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Jim Barnes, c. 1921. Photo by George Pietzcker

On October 10, 1916, the newly-formed Professional Golfers Association of America hosted the inaugural PGA Championship at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, NY. Striving for a purse of $3,000 among a group of 32 contenders, naturalized U.S. citizens Jim Barnes and Jock Hutchison drove, chipped and birdied their way to the finals.

With a massive crowd assembled for the afternoon match despite driving wind and rain, Barnes quickly pulled even three holes in. Standing 6’4,” the English-born golfer was nicknamed “Long Jim.” At the seventh hole, Barnes forged ahead and dropped in a putt from 18 feet. Two holes later he hit a clutch birdie with a putt from 35 feet. Hutchison kept pace, however, with his own birdie from 15 feet on the next hole, leaving him one down. With the 16th hole halved in fours, Hutchison failed to convert his putt, making Barnes the first PGA Champion, a title he would hold until play resumed after WWI and he won the Championship again.

When the PGA tournament in 1919 resumed after World War I, Barnes won the PGA Championship a second time, beating Fred McLeod in the final round. Two years later, he won the U.S. Open at Colombia Country Club, defeating Walter Hagen and McLeod by 9 strokes, a record that stood until Tiger Woods won the title by 15 strokes in 2000.

In 1925, Jim Barnes returned to Great Britain to win the Open Championship the last year the tournament was held at Prestwick. One of the most successful players on the early PGA tour, Barnes was one of 12 golfers inducted into the inaugural PGA Hall of Fame in 1940.

Photo by George Pietzcker

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