Columbine Polishes Its History

For the pros competing in the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Golf Course, May 18 will be moving day. For the members of Columbine Country Club, some 1,850 miles west of Long Island, that Saturday will be a moving one as well, as the club, which hosted the 1967 PGA Championship, finally gets to unveil a replica of the Wanamaker Trophy—at 28 inches tall, the largest silverware in professional golf—from that historic championship.

Not even Don January, who won his only major in an 18-hole Monday playoff at the event, got to keep a trophy. In lieu of a gleaming replica prize, he received a bottle of private label Kentucky whiskey. Some whisper he may not have even collected the $25,000 winner’s share, because the championship took place at the height of a nasty schism within the PGA of America that pit touring pro golfers against club golf pros that resulted in the formation of the stand-alone PGA TOUR in 1968.

“There were 200 players playing for their lives, intertwined with 6,000 club pros with steady jobs,” Deane Beman, the PGA TOUR’s second commissioner, recalled in a Golf magazine article. “And the needs of those two groups no longer aligned.”

Wanamaker replica trophy, Columbine Country Club
Wanamaker Bet: 52 years later Columbine can salute Don January (center) with more than bourbon. (Photo: EJ Carr)

Columbine recently met the needs of its members by replacing the clubhouse that predated January’s victory with a $25 million, 56,000-square-foot structure. The new clubhouse, coupled with the distinction of being one of only three Colorado courses to host a major championship, inspired the Columbine membership to celebrate its history more.

So last year, the club reached out to the PGA of America about getting a replica Wanamaker to display. The effort led to trophy specialist John Bowles and the same silversmiths in Dartford, England, who created the replica trophy for last year’s centennial PGA Championship and the one for this year’s. The gleaming icon will be unveiled May 18 after the first round of Columbine’s men’s opening tournament.

“It’s a best-ball we’re calling the ‘Columbine PGA,’” explains Head PGA Professional Bryan Heim. “After the round, each team randomly draws the names of two pros who have made the cut at Bethpage and adds the lower score to their own for both days. It’s sort of a twist that ties everything together.”

This article appeared in the May 2019 Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.

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