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Memorabilia under the hammer

Gi’s auction-room expert Kevin MicGimpsey flags up three eagerly-anticipated spring sales and answers more of your letters

AUCTION NEWS There is a keen sense of anticipation among serious collectors as the new season gets underway with three golf memorabilia auctions scheduled at the end of May. The first of these is at Bonhams, in Chester, on Tuesday 29th, followed the next day by what promises to be a particularly fascinating double, with sales at Christie’s in London and Mullock’s in Ludlow.

One of the highlights of the Bonham’s sale is likely to be ‘The Hitler Trophy’, as featured in issue 108, along with the wonderful collection of antique golf balls you see pictured here.

Meanwhile, Christie’s have pulled off a great coup by undertaking the sale of one of the most prized collections in the world – that belonging to Jamie Ortiz-Patino, owner of Valderrama Golf Club in Spain. This is surely one of the most historically important collections of golfing memorabilia ever assembled. I was fortunate to see the collection in 2010 and it is magnificent both in terms of its depth and range, from 17th Century Spur irons to Allan Robertson gutta-percha golf balls to early paintings and golfing ceramics of the highest quality. If you are interested in seeing the lots on offer, then give the auction houses a ring or drop them an email requesting a catalogue. If you are have access to the Internet you can view individual items on their websites. Look out for a full report on these auctions in the summer. Right now, your letters...

BRASS GOLF BALL MOULD
Can you help value this brass golf ball mould?
Terry Clegg, via email

Our reader’s two-piece mould was made by John White & Co., of 193 St Andrew Street, Edinburgh, a well thought of foundry. The White stamp can be seen on the outside of the lower mould. Around 1880 to the early 1900s, golf professionals used these moulds to either make their own branded golf balls for members or, more likely, to re-cover damaged balls and make them good as new.

Looking inside the mould at the two perfectly created hemispheres, the ball’s cover is formed by a surface in reverse. For example, the popular ball cover pattern at the turn of the 20th century was the bramble pattern, one that resembled the skin of a blackberry. To create this pattern of raised pimples the surface of the ball mould looks like round dimples; later on in the 1920s the round dimple pattern became the dominant surface pattern and that would have been created by a pattern of raised dimples in the mould.

The professional would have filled the two moulds with a globe of gutta-percha or, as an alternative, a mixture of rubber over a round ball core. The two halves would be placed together and clipped into place using the cast lugs. The mould would then be placed in a ball press with its screw mechanism that when hand-turned squeezed the moulds and placed them under incredible pressure. After a time the screw was unwound and the mould retrieved and opened and in most cases a perfect golf ball was created, ready for seasoning, drying out and later for painting.

Our reader’s ball mould is rather special because it made ‘Tom Morris’ branded golf balls. This mould was probably at one time in the Tom Morris shop in St. Andrews, just one of several similar objects. And because the name Tom Morris is revered by collectors, this mould would be highly collectible.

VALUE: A golf ball mould in this condition that would have made ‘no-name’ bramble patterned golf balls i.e. there wasn’t a name engraved on the mould surface, at auction will fetch between £250 and £300. Add in a name of the ball or the golf ball maker and that increases to £400. I believe that our reader’s Tom Morris golf ball mould would be snapped up at around the £600 to £800 mark.

MILLS BENT NECK PUTTER

Your appraisal please on this Mills putter and the cavities on the back of the head. I think that this putter was last in use at the Machrie Isle of Islay course in the 1910s.
Ronnie McCallum, Glasgow Scotland

The putter is a Mills Bent Neck BM Model Flat Lie circa 1910s. The crown is stamped ‘Standard Golf Co. Sunderland’ and its design patent number, 7691. All Mills putters were marked with both its head-weight and its lie specifications.

The Standard Golf Company had their factory at the Atlas Works, Bonners Field in Sunderland; they produced Mills Patent aluminium golf clubs and they advertised the Mills putter in the 1910s as being so successfully that they were used by two of the greats at that time, H. Hilton and J.L. Low.

‘This Putter has all the advantages of a Wood Putter without the disadvantages’ ran the marketing blurb of the day. ‘Impervious to wet and practically indestructible.’

The company’s proprietor, Sir William Mills (1856 - 1932) went into business in 1885 as a General Engineer in Sunderland when he established the first British Aluminium foundry at the Atlas Works. It was here that he produced some of Britain’s earliest aluminium golf clubs under the patent (No. 13545) marketed as ‘Metallic Golfing Instrument Heads’. A keen golfer himself, Mills was involved in designing and producing over 40 models of aluminium putters and fairway clubs starting with aluminium copies of wooden long nose shaped putters.

Mills also carried out extensive research into munitions’ design faults and came up with his own grenade, which had a central spring-loaded firing-pin and spring-loaded lever locked by a pin. A four-second time fuse allowed the thrower to take cover before it exploded. His bombs were used exclusively and successfully by the British and other Allies throughout the war and 75,000,000 were supplied. His services were rewarded with a Knighthood in 1922.

Our reader’s putter has round cavities to which could be added lead weighting; it was a common practice to drill out the relatively soft aluminium head and pour in lead to increase its weight.

VALUE: In good condition such a putter would fetch between £40 and £80; there are many collectors specifically of alloy headed clubs and putters, several of which specialise in Mills or Mills-style putters. Sadly, however, our reader’s club – although complete with its original leather grip and wooden shaft – has a crack in the hosel (neck). This has been caused not by rough handling but by oxidisation. I am sorry to say it renders the putter financially worthless as collectors will just not part with their monies for such a damaged club.

RYDER CUP DINNER MENU

Does this 1947 Ryder Cup menu have any value please?
Donald Duffy, Bolton

The 1947 GB & I Ryder Cup team was met by their American hosts in New York after they arrived on the Queen Mary. The celebration meal was held at the Waldorf- Astoria in New York on 23rd October 1947 ‘In Honor of the British Ryder Cup Team’. This menu has 8 internal pages that recorded previous matches, the banquet and the names of both teams. A nice touch is that is still retains its red and blue cord.

The ‘menu’ comprised 5 sumptuous courses and accompanied by Pommard 1942 ‘clos de la commaraine’ magnums and Cordon Rouge 1937 magnums… The 7th Ryder Cup Match was played on November 1 and 2 1947 at the Portland Golf Club in Oregon; the Captains were Ben Hogan and Henry Cotton.

It took the GB & I team three days by rail to get to the Pacific Northwest on the other side of the country, and so it is hardly surprising to learn that once the Matches were underway the Americans were overwhelming in their dominance. Only Britain’s Sam King was able to muster a point, defeating Herman Keiser, 4&3, in the singles. The American team featured Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, the only members of the 1937 team. The USA team won convincingly 11- 1. It must have been a terrible trip home!

Many believe that the Ryder Cup Matches would not have resumed in 1947 had Oregon fruit grower and canner, Robert A. Hudson, not come forward to fund the GB & I team. Food rationing was still in force in Britain when Hudson, who was a member of the PGA Tournament Advisory Committee (1946-68), stepped up and offered his help and the use of Portland Golf Club as the host site. Following the Matches, Hudson sent Christmas baskets of food to all members of the British Team and others he met in 1947 and again in 1951

VALUE: Such menu cards remain popular with Ryder Cup memorabilia collectors. This one, in such pristine condition, would fetch £300 to £400. If it had been signed by the team members then this estimate would be trebled to £1,000 plus.

WALKER CUP PROGRAMME

We were privileged to watch the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton and to get our official programme autographed by both teams and their captains. It is in ‘as new’ condition and we were wondering what it might fetch if sold.
R. Watkins, Scarborough, W. Yorkshire

I obviously recognise that face on the lefthand page as the GB & I team was captained by Garth McGimpsey – my brother!

Golf programmes are wonderful fonts of knowledge, containing players’ profiles and hole-by-hole descriptions. They also provide a snapshot of what was happening in golf at that time, with contemporary advertisements, statistics and photographs. By their nature the majority of programmes are discarded after the event and so surviving examples become rare.

This glossy covered programme contains 60 A4-sized pages of fascinating articles: The Story of the 2001 Walker Cup; Ganton – A Short history; Harry Vardon – Club professional and Champion Golfer and, of course, the team profiles.

There were several players on both sides who have since made their mark in the paid ranks as professionals – notably Bill Haas in America and Oliver Wilson on the European Tour. Gary Wolstenholme (at 43) and George Zahringer at (50) were the two senior citizens of the teams.

On the last day, the reigning Welsh Amateur champion, Stuart Manley, won his singles match and fellow countryman Nigel Edwards halved the last match, giving the GB & I team a third consecutive victory over the USA, winning 12½ to 11½.

VALUE: Walker Cup material is not as commercial as Ryder Cup memorabilia. However it is popular and is collectible. A mint, un-signed 2003 programme at auction would reach £20 or so. However, as with the 1947 menu card (above), its value escalates to £300-400 when profile images have been signed by the relevant players.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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