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Golf's Greatest Auction?

Golf's Greatest Auction?
November 15, 2023
Bradley Calleja
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For those of us who track art and collectibles markets, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
With art and luxury on the block, November often acts as the crescendo of the auction season before the industry heads home for the holidays.
The jaw-dropping sales that increase in frequency this time of year are already rolling in. In a single week, we saw a diamond sell for $44 million, multiple paintings hammer for more than $100 million, and the first multi-million U.S. stamp.
Except for a few consignment headlines, the sports memorabilia market has remained largely subdued. However, that relative dormancy - which has persisted since the late summer sales in August - could end this week with the spotlight turning to none other than... **drum roll**... golf.  
In hindsight, we probably should have opted for golf claps instead of the drumroll.
All joking aside, this is a serious week for collectors of golf memorabilia as arguably the most important auction for this niche market is scheduled to close on Friday.Golden Age Auctions, which sold a set of Tiger Woods clubs in 2022 for $5.6 million and now lays claim to the most expensive sale for any golf memorabilia, is hosting its 2023 Premier Auction and no record is safe.
There’s Walter Hagen’s Patek Philippe Pocket Watch, which was awarded to the late golf legend after he won the 1914 US Open, his first of 11 Major Championships. The watch is already priced above $36,000 which easily makes it the most expensive golf-related watch ever sold at auction. For context on the golf-watch market, in 2007, Christie’s sold the 18K Golf wristwatch presented to Gene Sarazen after his 1922 Open Championship for $31,000.
While the watch is certainly an impressive award, it’s a Masters Tournament Trophy that has already cleared six figures. Sam Snead, the winner of three Masters Tournaments, won his first in 1949 which also happened to be the year that the Augusta National Golf Club began fitting its victors with the now coveted green jacket.
Until only recently, it was Masters trophies and jackets that controlled the leaderboard of golf memorabilia. When Golden Age sold a Masters trophy won by Arnold Palmer for $444,012 in 2016, it stood behind Horten Smith’s 1936 green jacket, which was given retroactively, as the second most expensive golf memorabilia sold. There have now been two Masters trophies that have sold for at least $500,000 and nine that have hammered for at least six figures.
Aside from Tiger Woods, demand for modern golf memorabilia has been limited to say the least. In a sport dominated by legends of old, there will be a new record established for any Rory Mcllroy-used club as his Nike Method Prototype Putter has neared $20,000 through 32 bids. The bidding activity provides a positive sign for Rory’s demand as the putter last sold in 2017 for $5,011.
For golf fans familiar with the Disney movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, a PSA Type-1 photo of protagonist and 1913 US Open champion Francis Ouimet and his caddie Eddie Lowery could become the most expensive golf photo ever sold. It was less than a year ago when the record was set by an image from the 1934 Masters that sold for $82,246 and this latest image already stands as the eighth Type-1 golf photo to exceed $20,000 at Golden Age.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s a red dot Tiger putter.
Cited in a Scotty Cameron-signed COA as Tiger’s “Actual Back Up” putter, this club could be the crème de la crème of publicly available golf putters. As those close to the game of golf collecting know, Tiger used the same red dot Scotty Cameron putter throughout the course of his storied career. While that putter would likely appraise in the ballpark of $10 million, the putter up for auction this week is rumored to be the only other red dot gamer ever used by Tiger in tournament play. Steeped in a compelling backstory which features a frustrated Tiger, the putter set to go under the hammer this week is rumored to be the sole alternative red dot ever used by the legend in tournament play. The tale goes that Tiger, in a moment of anger, damaged his preferred putter and was forced to finish the round using one of his backup clubs. While the existing record for any red dot stands at $393,300, the question looms: could speculation propel this putter into the record books?
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