World Golf Hall of Fame officials will be waiting with interest for the results of an online and live auction of some of Sam Snead’s most valued major championship trophies and medals.
The Snead family put items on the block such as his 1954 Masters trophy, his 1946 Claret Jug for winning the Open Championship at St. Andrews and the gold medal for his 1942 PGA Championship, the first of his seven major championships. Heritage Auctions began conducting an online auction on Wednesday and on Aug. 1-2, Snead memorabilia will be offered at a live auction at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Ill.
Snead, who holds the PGA Tour record for career victories with 82, was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. He died in 2002, four days short of his 90th birthday.
Many of the items were on display at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., at various locations of Sam Snead restaurants and at his home in Hot Springs, Va. World Golf Hall of Fame chief operating officer Jack Peter said attempts had been made to obtain some of the trophies on loan to display in St. Augustine, but discussions with the family didn’t lead anywhere.
Peter is hoping for better fortune with collectors.
“Once we know who purchased some of the items, we will see if we can work out a loan arrangement,” Peter said. “We had talked to Jackie [Snead’s son] over the years but couldn’t work anything out.”
Peter said the Hall of Fame does not purchase items. They are either loaned or donated.
The most significant Snead-related item in the Hall of Fame is a set of clubs and a bag he used when he was 12 years old and a set of hickory-shafted irons and a putter Snead made himself.
As far as the items to be auctioned, Heritage Auctions director of sports Chris Ivy said, “We consider it the most significant golf collection that’s ever been offered.”
“We’ve been thinking about this, trying to decide what to do because our company has so much stuff,” Jackie Snead told the Associated Press. “We just thought maybe it was time to share it with golf fans and historians. We’ve had most all of dad’s trophies on display at The Greenbrier over the last 16 or 20 years. I don’t know. I’m not too keen with museums. We’ve had some weird experiences with museums when we’ve loaned things out.
“We’re going to have tons of stuff we’ll maintain ourselves,” he said. “The rest we’ll let it go out and see what happens.”
Two other auctions involving the Snead Collection are planned for the fall and next spring.
The Masters’ trophy and silver claret jug are each expected to bring in $100,000 or more. Ivy estimated the entire collection will fetch several million dollars. “A collection of this magnitude hasn’t been offered before,” he said.
Ivy said previous golf items through Heritage included the original Augusta National green jacket of co-founder Bobby Jones that fetched $310,000.
Other high-end items were Walter Hagen’s gold medal from his 1922 British Open win and Ralph Guldahl’s gold medal from the 1939 Masters. Each went for $65,000.
Snead said the proceeds would likely to go charity.
“The trophies didn’t mean that much to Pop in a way,” Snead said. “In those days, he was more concerned with the paycheck. The thing he was most proud of was his record. He cared more about [his record] than any of his tournament wins.”
Snead said there were some items that would never be sold at auction, though they weren’t all related to Snead’s golfing career. He mentioned the tractor that Snead rode on his farm in Virginia to relax when he was away from golf, some of the guns Snead had since he was a boy growing up in West Virginia, and the five-string banjo he played.
For Heritage Sports, there wasn’t as much work involved in authenticating the items. Snead did that himself. His son said when they used to display the items in Sam Snead’s Taverns, his father thought it would be a good idea to write a note explaining the significance of each.
“The provenance is much better coming from the family of an athlete,” Ivy said. “That’s something Snead did that I’ve never seen done before. He went through and numbered all the clubs he owned and wrote letters of authentication of each club. We’ve got handwritten letters from Sam Snead saying, ‘This is the club used in 1954 in the playoff with Ben Hogan to win the Masters.’ He’s got literally hundreds of those.”
Other items being offered in the initial auction include the putter Snead used in the 1954 Masters; the red captain’s jacket he wore in the 1969 Ryder Cup; the Wanamaker Trophy from his 1951 PGA Championship victory at Oakmont; a Ryder Cup trophy from 1959; the gold medal from his first Masters win in 1949; and a silver medal from the 1947 U.S. Open. The U.S. Open was the one major Snead never won. He lost in a playoff to Lew Worsham in 1947 at St. Louis Country Club.
“It’s a pretty exciting collection,” Ivy said.
Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362