A third alternate from the host PGA Section won the 1920 PGA Championship!

“Did You Know”
A third alternate from the host PGA Section won the 1920 PGA Championship!

The 1920 PGA Championship was scheduled for Flossmoor Country Club in Chicago. At that time, there were only seven PGA Sections encompassing the entire country. Sectional qualifying for the 31 spots in the match play ladder was held in July at the various PGA Sections with the defending champion exempt. The number of qualifying spots was based on the number of PGA members in each PGA Section.

The Middle States Section, which covered 11 states from Florida north to Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, was given 2 extra spots as the host for the championship, for a total of 8. When the Middle States Section held its qualifying in Chicago, the big news was that Chicago’s Jock Hutchison had missed qualifying. He not only failed to qualify, but the third alternate, tying for 11th. Hutchison was a very accomplished player who had come close to winning major championships.

Atlanta’s J. Douglas Edgar led the qualifying in Philadelphia for 1 of the 4 spots allotted to the Southeastern Section.

That year there were six big golf tournaments in six weeks; Shawnee Open, Metropolitan Open, Western Open, US Open, PGA Championship and Canadian Open.

Just back from finishing sixth at the British Open, Jim Barnes won Shawnee for a second straight year. The two great British professionals, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, who had just arrived in the states for an exhibition tour of 200 rounds, were entered. Due to a swollen thumb that Vardon sustained in a pillow fight during the voyage, he had to skip the tournament. Ray finished second.

After a disappointing T53 in the British Open, Walter Hagen stayed overseas and won the French Open. On his return to the states Hagen won the Met Open in a playoff with Barnes. Due to being overseas Hagen missed competing in PGA qualifying. As the defending champion Barnes was exempt.

It was on to the Western Open in Chicago. One week after failing to qualify for the PGA, Jock Hutchison was the winner. Barnes, Leo Diegel and Atlantic City Country Club’s Clarence Hackney tied for second, one stroke back. Next it was the US Open in Toledo. Ted Ray won by one stroke. Vardon, Leo Diegel, Hutchison and Jack Burke, Sr., tied for second. Now in Minnesota, Burke had learned to play golf as a young caddy at the Philadelphia Country Club.

From there it was back to Chicago for the PGA Championship at Floosmoor Country Club with Hutchison, the professional at a Chicago club, playing great golf, but not in the starting field. Then someone withdrew and Wisconsin’s Arthur Clarkson, the Middle States Section’s first alternate was in. With it getting late withdrawals were being filled by the host Section’s alternates. There was another withdrawal and Indiana’s Wallie Nelson was in as the second alternate from the host Section. Then the evening before the tournament, Clarkson who had agreed to play withdrew. The next morning it was not Clarkson, but third alternate Hutchison opposing Chicago’s Eddie Loos. Loos had been the head professional at the Philadelphia Cricket Club for one year until enlisting in the US Navy in 1917 for World War I.

Hutchison, with earlier second place showings in the PGA and US Open, had a golf record deserving of a place in the tournament. But, eyebrows were raised and there was a great deal of speculation concerning how it all came down at the eleventh hour.

The tournament format was 32 PGA members playing match play, all seeded by blind draw, including the defending champion. All rounds were 36 holes. In the second round Hackney knocked out Barnes, the defending champion, by the count of 5&4. You wonder who was watching Hackney’s Atlantic City CC golf shop during the peak of the golf season. Hackney lost in the next round to Harry Hampton, who would be working for him seven years later.

At the bottom of the ladder Hutchison swept through his opponents; 5&3, 5&3, 6&5 and 4&3. In the upper half J. Douglas Edgar first had to go to the 36th green before winning 1up. From there he won the next three matches with ease, one by 11&9.

 On the day of the final most of the money was wagered on Edgar who had won the 1919 Canadian Open by 16 strokes, but Hutchison led all the way. With a one hole edge teeing off on the par five 36th hole Hutchison took no chances. Edgar went for the green with his second shot only to finish in a green side bunker. They halved with 5s. Jock Hutchison had won the PGA Championship. A year later he won the British Open.

The next week J. Douglas Edgar won the Canadian Open for a second straight year.

Many years later it was still being mentioned, sometimes in print, what an unusual chain of events it took for Jock Hutchison to find his way into, and then win the 1920 PGA Championship.

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