Keeping Score

PGA fun fact: Elk and 504 ounces of beer

The Wanamaker Trophy is the pride of the PGA of America. It is awarded annually to the winner of the PGA Championship, and the organization makes sure that every bit of information about the Wanamaker Trophy is properly disseminated.

Except this: It takes 42 cans of your favorite beer to fill the Wanamaker to the brim.

Steve Elkington, the 1995 PGA champion, knows this because while the Wanamaker was in his possession, it happened. Elkington had accomplices: former PGA champions Jackie Burke, Dave Marr and Jay Hebert, plus three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret.

At the time, all were members of Champions Club in Houston. Burke won the PGA in 1956 at Blue Hill Country Club in Canton, Mass. Hebert won the Wanamaker in 1960 at Firestone in Akron, and Marr in 1965 at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa. Hebert and Marr died in 1997.

“At Christmas, there is a member event at Champions Club,” said Elkington, an Australian who had played on three NCAA champions at Houston and made his home in the city. “It’s The Rhubarb, with the south side of the locker room taking on the north side. Jimmy Demaret was captain of the south, and Jackie the captain of the north.

“I brought the Wanamaker to the club.”

The members at Champions Club wanted to have their photos taken with the four champions and the impressive Wanamaker brimming with beer.

“It takes 42 beers,” Elkington said of the Wanamaker’s capacity. “But then you can’t lift it. You need a scoop or a ladle to get to the beer.”

The Rhubarb is a tradition that endures today at Champions Club.

Elkington’s victory at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., came in a playoff against Colin Montgomerie. But before he beat Montgomerie with a birdie on the first extra hole, the Australian, who would win 10 times on the PGA Tour and be ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking for more than 50 weeks, had to chase down Ernie Els in the final round.

Els began the final 18 holes with a three-shot lead over Jeff Maggert and Mark O’Meara and was six shots ahead of Elkington, who was tied for fifth.

“Ernie’s locker and mine are always next to each other,” Elkington said. “I’m sitting there putting my shoes on Sunday morning, and some of Els’ people are busy on their cellphones, ordering champagne. I said to myself, This thing is not over yet. It helped jerk me back into reality.”

Elkington’s confidence was stoked by several factors. He was enjoying his best year on the PGA Tour. He had tied for fifth at the Masters Tournament a few months earlier and then finished T-6 in the British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course. 

“It was a great year for me, in general,” Elkington said. “I won the Vardon Trophy [lowest scoring average]. I was right there at the Masters and at the British Open. I was just 68 every day, seemed like.

“Going to Riviera, I had a couple things in my favor. I knew the course well, and I grew up on kikuyu grass. It was an advantage, at least in my mind. And I had been in the heat of a major championship. All of that came together.”

Elkington also knew there was a low score out there on that Sunday.

“Brad Faxon shot 28 on the front nine and 63,” Elkington said. “It almost takes a close miss at a major to be able to understand how to close one out at the end. At the British, I didn’t quite keep the hammer down coming in. Maybe I was a little conservative. I wasn’t going to be at Riviera.”

The Wanamaker Trophy is 28 inches tall and, measured handle-to-handle, 27 inches across. It weighs 27 pounds.

Without 42 cans of beer.

Vartan Kupelian covered his first U.S. Open in 1973 at Oakmont Country Club. A past president of the Golf Writers Association of America, he was a sports writer and columnist at The Detroit News for 38 years. He has covered more than 100 major championships across all tours. Email: golfstix@aol.com


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