The Spoils of Victory

Brian Wacker
Golf Digest

Justin Thomas needed to do some renovating to his home office after 2017. That’s what happens when you win five times and are named Player of the Year.

For now, the Wanamaker Trophy earned with his victory at the PGA Championship, the FedEx Cup and the Jack Nicklaus Trophy, awarded annually to the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year, are occupying the mantle above the 25-year-old’s fireplace in the living room of his house in Jupiter, Fla. He likes to show them off, and it’s a nice reminder of the season that was.

He also took home the Arnold Palmer Award as the tour’s leading money winner, among other trophies.

“The Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer trophies are really cool,” Thomas said of the two bronze statues depicting the two legends. “Anytime you can have a trophy with their name, let alone two of them, is awesome.”

His favorite, though, is the Wanamaker. It represents the biggest victory to date of his career, and in a literal sense is the largest trophy he’s ever won, as it checks in at 28 inches high, 10½ inches in diameter and weighing a hefty 27 pounds.

There is, of course, the money earned for winning a tournament—lots of it for those who play at the highest levels. But in golf, there are no more tangible signs of success than trophies, the symbols of achievement in a sport where victories, even for the most successful golfers, are rare.

<div class="caption"> Justin Thomas poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club. </div> <cite class="credit">Montana Pritchard/PGA of America</cite>
Justin Thomas poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

The trophies handed out for winning major championship are obviously the most familiar, and most coveted.

“There’s no better wine decanter than the claret jug,” joked Thomas. Though he has yet to win golf’s oldest trophy, he did drink from it after his good friend Jordan Spieth won it at Birkdale in 2017.

By the time Spieth took it home, he already had a place for it. A year earlier, Spieth bought Hunter Mahan’s house in Dallas. Among the notable features of the 10,000 square feet abode was an indoor half-size basketball court and a 12-car garage.

And a specially designed trophy room.

Mahan has won a half-dozen times on the PGA Tour. Spieth, just 25 years old, has nearly double that total with 11 wins, including three majors.

“I have a row with cases for the trophies from the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship, plus the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship,” he said. “I have my Ryder Cup bags up top, too. It’s a cool setup.”

While partial, Spieth contends the claret jug is the best trophy in all of golf. He had it with him just about everywhere he went following his victory at Birkdale, from Australia to the Bahamas, from Hawaii to Connecticut and all points in between, before begrudgingly returning to the R&A at Carnoustie this summer. But other prizes get reaction, too, when friends come by his house.

<h1 class="title">146th Open Championship - Final Round</h1> <div class="caption"> SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Jordan Spieth of the United States kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 23, 2017 in Southport, England. (Photo by David Cannon/R&amp;A/R&amp;A via Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">David Cannon/R&amp;A</cite>

146th Open Championship - Final Round

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Jordan Spieth of the United States kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 23, 2017 in Southport, England. (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
David Cannon/R&A

“The major ones it’s more like ‘wow’ and every now and then I get a ‘Woah, what’s that?’ ” Spieth said, referring to a Tiger pawing a globe atop a wooden base. It was for his 10-shot win at the 2014 Hero World Challenge, run by Tiger Woods. “That one’s kind of bizarre.”

Spieth said he doesn’t go in the room often. It’s a way of not resting on past achievements. By contrast, fellow Texan Jimmy Walker prefers to keep his where he can see them. He has six victories on tour, including a major. After winning the PGA Championship in 2016, he and wife, Erin, along with a few friends, drank all sorts of adult beverages out from the giant cup with the removable top, including kümmel, a “disgusting tasting licorice tasting” liqueur.

More than a few trophies make for good drinking vessels.

When Rickie Fowler won the Players in 2015, he imbibed plenty of beer out of the large, hollow crystal. It’s the only one of his that he has drunk from, at one point inserting a handful of straws so that everyone could enjoy the tastes of his success.

“I have a couple in my office, a couple in my golf room,” Fowler said. “I like to have them around. I know some guys don’t have them in their house or it’s in a game room, but I like to have them and see them and look back and remember some good times.”

Jack Nicklaus doesn’t need to look at them to remember the victories. With 73 wins on the PGA Tour (third-most all time behind Sam Snead and Tiger Woods), including 18 major championships, another 10 victories on the senior circuit, and more than three dozen other wins, he has so many trophies that he keeps them in a variety of locations (spreading them around also is done for security and insurance reasons). The majority of his hardware is housed at his museum on the campus of Ohio State University, but there are also replicas of his major wins scattered between the Bear’s Club, Muirfield Village and his various homes.

Not all trophies double fancy beer mugs. It’s uniquely designed trophies that become the more interesting ones to display. One of Walker’s favorites is from the Nationwide Tour when he won the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic. The prize, aside from the $100,000 winner’s check? A 60-pound coal car mounted on a block of wood. It’s on display in the family dining room.

“I don’t know what it’s made of,” he said. “It’s super heavy.”

At least he knows where it is. Long before Brooks Koepka became a three-time major champion this summer with his U.S. Open and PGA Championship wins, the 28-year-old won four times on the European Tour’s Challenge Tour.

What happened to those trophies?

“I didn’t bring any of them home,” Koepka said. “I have maybe a few trophies, from the U.S. Open, the PGA and the Dunlop Phoenix. Other than those, I don’t know where the rest are. I don’t know where the one from the Waste Management Phoenix Open [his first PGA Tour title, and only non-major win, from 2015] is. No idea. I’m not a big trophy person. I’ve got the [major championship] trophies, so I’m content with that.”

<div class="caption"> Koepka isn't sure the whereabouts of his Phoenix Open trophy. </div> <cite class="credit">Sam Greenwood/Getty Images</cite>
Koepka isn't sure the whereabouts of his Phoenix Open trophy.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Mind you, the whereabouts of those even are uncertain at times. When Koepka played at the Travelers Championship a week after his Shinnecock victory, he was asked what he did with the U.S. Open trophy he’d just won. “It’s at my house. It’s just chillin’,” he said. Asked more specifically about it, though, Koepka acknowledge he didn’t know the trophy’s actual location.

“I was trying to sleep so much, I left it, I think, on the kitchen counter. I don’t even know.”

Fellow bash bro Dustin Johnson won his first tournament of 2018 the first week of the year, the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, to take home the new trophy for that event—a glass sculpture of a whale diving into the water that incorporates the logo of the new sponsor.

“It’s heavy,” he said. “I like it, though. It’s different. I have quite a few of the normal ones.”

That includes a U.S. Open trophy for his victory in 2016 at Oakmont among his 20 in all. All of them were on display before Johnson recently changed houses. During the move he couldn’t account for one.

It was from the last time he had won at Kapalua, in 2013.

He didn't lose it, or leave it behind. It turns out his agent had it.

Said Johnson, “I knew I didn’t lose it.”

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