27 years ago in South Florida, Tom Wargo made golf history
It certainly wasn’t easy, and was incredibly improbable, but Tom Wargo made it happen.
In 1993, at what’s now known as the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Wargo became the first and only PGA Club Professional to win the Championship since the PGA Tour Champions was founded in 1980.
“It didn’t really all sink in until the next day, when I woke up and realized just exactly what I had done,” said Wargo. “All I tried to do that week was play the best golf I could.”
Wargo beat Bruce Crampton on the second extra hole after the pair tied through 72 holes in South Florida at PGA National’s Champion Course.
Crampton shot 66 in the final round to force the playoff with Wargo, who closed with a 70. After both players made par on the opening playoff hole, the par-4 16th, Crampton’s 7-iron tee shot at the par-3 17th was pushed into a pond. Wargo safely played his ball into the middle of the green and two-putted for a par and the victory.
“Playoffs are a different cat,” said Wargo. “You’re trying to win and you have to take chances. I realized that this might be the only opportunity in my life to win a golf tournament like this.”
It’s always been a challenge for PGA Club Professionals to balance what they do every day - golf operations, coaching both amateurs and professionals, and managing facilities - while also playing at an elite level alongside the game’s best.
After turning professional in 1976, Wargo had success playing in Section and National events, including the 1988 Illinois PGA Section Championship, 1990 Gateway PGA Section Championship and the 1992 PGA Winter Stroke Play Championship, which was also hosted at PGA National.
Wargo, now retired and living in Centralia, Illinois, with wife Irene, started at Greenview Golf Club serving in a variety of roles - superintendent, managing the golf shop and coaching - beginning in 1981. He purchased the facility in 1991 and bought out the investors in 1994. He and his wife owned and operated the facility for 20 years before selling it in 2014.
“It’s tough, but I don’t know a [PGA] Club Professional who doesn’t like to play,” said Wargo.”We all got into the game to be around it, to play the game and take up all aspects of it.
“For me, I would find time to hit the ball for an hour in the morning, before anyone else was at the course. And then I would find a game with a few others at the end of the day to keep it competitive.”
Now, 77, Wargo reflects on a career in golf with that 1993 major championship as one of his top accomplishments.
“It’s hard to separate what I did in 1992 and what I did in 1993,” said Wargo. “I won the PGA of America Player of the Year in 1992. I was 49-years old at the time and I was able to take care of all the younger guys that year. To top that off with what I did in 1993 in Florida was pretty special. I just gave it all I had and wound up on top.”