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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF CURIOS...

Gi’s auction-room expert, Kevin McGimpsey, selects the best of your recent letters, including a Spalding Kro-Flite trophy, a rare autograph of astronaut-turned golfer, Alan Shepard and golf-themed pottery from Devon

SPALDING KRO-FLITE TROPHY

As children we always called this the ‘Bird ball’; what can you tell me about it?
Mike Sayers, Farnham, Surrey

In the last couple of issues we have featured various different examples of Hole-in- One trophies. This trophy is similar, in that it was awarded to professional golfers who had scored a birdie playing with a Spalding ball in a professional tournament.

There is a silver plaque at the front inscribed with details of where and when the feat was accomplished. Unfortunately, excessive polishing has seen off the lettering other than ‘1930 Professional Championship’. On the reverse of the plinth it is inscribed ‘With Compliments of A.G. Spalding Bros’.

The bird (wing-span 5 inches) is actually a crow, and is made from copper. It is fixed in place by a metal hoop that retains the Spalding mesh-patterned ball. Why a crow? During the 1920s and 30s, Spalding’s leading branded ball was the Kro-Flite; its name implied that when struck the golf ball would fly as straight as a crow flies!

VALUE: This little trophy is quite rare, as I have only seen three such examples in the last ten years (and of those only one retained the original golf ball!). It would be of interest to trophy collectors as well as golf ball collectors. Estimate: £100-150

AUTOGRAPH IS OUT OF THIS WORLD

This autograph, along with a box-full of other astronaut memorabilia, belonged to my uncle. This one has a golf connection. Would they be best sold in a specialist sale?
Alan Greaves Paris, France

‘Who was the first American to go into space?’. That’s a good pub-quiz question, and as the thought process kicks in, the name John Glenn often comes to mind. Yes that’s the answer, John Glenn.

But it’s the wrong answer; Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the third American to go into space. The correct answer is Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. [1923-1998], who also became the fifth man to walk on the Moon and the first man to play golf there.

On 6 February 1971, at the end of that day’s moonwalk, Shepard hit a Spalding golf ball with a 6-iron clubhead screwed onto the folding sampling arm that he had been using to pick up rock samples. He had smuggled the clubhead and two golf balls on board inside his space suit. Shepard later remarked that he duffed his first shot but that the second ball had gone some 400 yards or so. Upon his return to Earth, he later he presented the club to Bob Hope, an avid golfer who was well beloved by all branches of US Forces.

VALUE: An Alan Shepard autograph is very difficult to obtain, as the market is flooded with non-authentic and auto-pen signatures offered for sale as being authentic. However, our reader’s autograph appears to be hand-signed in black ink (there is a slight smudging along the edges) and certainly looks authentic and will display well. In my opinion, this autograph would fetch more interest in a Space rather than golf auction. All the major auction houses have at least one such sale a year and it should fetch between £200 and £300.

TAM O’SHANTER CONTESTANT BADGE

I found this golf-themed tin player’s pin at a boot-fair last year. It cost 50 cents. Has it any great value?
Sharon Bock, Florida, USA, via email

This is a professional contestant’s badge for the 1955 All-American Tournament held at the Tam O’Shanter Country Club, in Niles, near Chicago, Illinois.

It affords us an opportunity to write a few words about George S. May (1890-1962), who was the organiser of this annual 10 day Tam O'Shanter festival of golf that comprised a number of high quality tournaments.

These included the All-American Open, then a 2-day ‘Ryder Cup’ event, with the 8 leading American professionals in The All-American Golf Tournament representing the USA and the 8 leading non Americans in the opposing team. The festival culminated with the World Championship of Golf, a 72-the hole strokeplay tournament. The Tam O'Shanter experience also featured men’s amateur competitions, as well as both women’s amateur and professional competitions, another first, since women’s professional golf was in its infancy at that time.

George May is credited with popularising the game of golf in the USA during the 1940s and 1950s by turning golf into a mass spectator sport. May was the first to broadcast golf nationally on television, in 1953 from the Tom O’Shanter course. May paid broadcasters to cover his events, but forecast that in the not so far off future broadcasters would pay the tournament organisers; this happened within a few years, notably with the Masters.

Between the early 1940s and late 1950s, May offered nearly $2 million in prize money! The All-American tournament held in 1943 was the first Open tournament in the United States to welcome African- American golfers to the professional circuit.

May said at the time, ‘These tournaments are open to any American who is willing and able to qualify.’ Charlie Sifford played in most of the 1950s events.

There was over $100,000 prize money on offer in 1955 and all the top players participated including Sam Snead, Jerry Barber, Art Wall, Gene Littler, Roberto de Vicenzo, Ken Nagle, Peter Thomson, Max Faulkner and from the ladies ranks, Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias and Mickey Wright. What a jamboree of golf it must have been?

VALUE: Factors that would add to the badge’s value would include determining whose badge it was – i.e. did it belong to a high-profile player? As it stands, it will be sought after by American tour player’s badge collectors (and there are many of them). At auction, the bidding would start at £40.

DARTMOUTH POTTERY

I use these Dartmouth Pottery mugs, one to hold golf tees and the other marker pencils. Both are marked ‘Dartmouth Pottery Devon’ and there are no cracks or defects.
Joe Bannister, Upminster, Wiltshire

The Dartmouth Pottery, situated in the south Devon town of Dartmouth, was established in 1947 and is still operating today.

Their products are similar, in many respects, to traditional Devon wares. They started producing in 1950 a 5-inch high mug decorated with a golfer in relief driving off on one side, the ball on the green on the other, while the handle was partially shaped as a bag full of clubs. The most popular colours included browns and cream and yellows and cream.

The powder blue and white colour scheme is much rarer. For further information on all of the Dartmouth Pottery ranges please refer to Virginia Brisco’s Trade in Dartmouth Pottery: A Collectors' Guide.

VALUE: Watch out for reproductions lacking the Dartmouth back stamp. At auction, the ‘brown’ version would sell for £30 whilst the ‘blue’ version would be at least double and would sell at retail for £100.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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