The Senior PGA Championship, founded in 1937, was for many years the only high-profile tournament for golfers over 50. The idea for a senior tour grew out of a highly successful event in 1978, the Legends of Golf.
Legends of Golf featured a competition between two-member teams of some of the greatest older golfers of that day.
On This Day, in 1980 the PGA Tour of Champions… the Champions Tour Was Formally Founded
The tour was formally established in 1980 and was originally known as the Senior PGA Tour until October 2002. The tour was then renamed the Champions Tour through the 2015 season, after which the current name of “PGA Tour Champions” was adopted.
Timeline: A look at the senior circuit of golf:
1980: A meeting among Sam Snead, Bob Goalby, Don January, Julius Boros, Gardner Dickinson and Dan Sikes produces the idea of a “senior tour” and the PGA Tour soon adopts it.
Two tournaments were held, with January winning the first and Arnold Palmer winning the second in his first start as a senior.
1983: Tour grows to 18 events and more than $3 million in prize money.
1985: ESPN televises seven of 27 tournaments. Gary Player wins the first tournament he enters.
1987: Chi Chi Rodriguez wins three consecutive tournaments, takes a break, then wins the fourth straight tournament he enters. For the first time, pro-am and tournament portions of events are separated.
1988: Tour grows to 37 events.
1990: Lee Trevino is rookie of the year and player of the year with seven wins and becomes the first player to win more than $1 million in a season. Jack Nicklaus wins The Tradition in his Tour debut. President George H.W. Bush plays in a Senior event pro-am, marking the first time a sitting president has participated in a PGA-sanctioned event.
1991: Jim Albus becomes the first former club pro to win a senior major when he wins the Mazda Senior Players Championship. Jack Nicklaus completes Senior Slam by winning U.S. Senior Open.
1992: Raymond Floyd becomes the first golfer to win a regular PGA Tour and Senior Tour event in the same year.
1995: Hale Irwin joins the Tour.
1997: Irwin wins nine times and becomes the first player on any tour to win more than $2 million in a season.
1998: Irwin and Gil Morgan combine to win 13 events. Irwin earns $2.8 million on the Senior Tour, which is more than money-leader David Duval ($2.5 million) won on PGA Tour. This marks the second straight year Irwin earns more than the PGA Tour champion and the fourth time in Senior Tour history it happens. Jay Sigel sets Tour record with 9-under 27 on the front nine at Hartefeld National with an eagle and seven birdies. David Graham beats Dave Stockton in a record 10-hole sudden-death playoff in Royal Caribbean Classic.
1999: Rookie Bruce Fleisher wins his first two starts and finishes the year with seven wins. Bob Duval wins the Emerald Coast Classic on the same day his son David wins The Players Championship.
2002: Japan’s Seiji Ebihara ties the all-time nine-hole scoring record with an 8-under 27 on the front nine at Firestone in the final round of the Senior PGA Championship. Late in the season, the Senior Tour is renamed the Champions Tour.
2003: The number of tournaments drops to 31. Former Illinois football star Rick George is named president of the Champions Tour. His background includes being an assistant coach, an athletic administrator at Vanderbilt and running the PGA Tour event in New Orleans.
2004: The Golf Channel replaces CNBC as the Tour’s TV network. CNBC, which carried tournaments from 2001-03, often showed them on a tape-delayed basis.
2005: Irwin wins the Turtle Bay Championship for the fifth time. Dana Quigley’s streak of 264 consecutive starts ends when he stays home from the Senior British Open to rest his ailing hip. The use of motorized carts is banned unless weather or course setup dictates their use. They can be used to transport golfers from green to tee if the distance is long or the route is steep.
2008-Present: Over the last ten years, Bernhard Langer has dominated the Champions Tour amassing 36 total wins, 10 in just the past two years alone. That includes ten “Senior Major Championships”, and eight out of nine leading money winner at seasons end.
With Langer’s totals up to $24,599,350, he is just a couple of wins away from overtaking Hale Irwin for PGA Champions Tour earnings all-time.