On May 20, 2012, Christie’s will auction what they are billing as “the most important private collection of golf art and memorabilia ever assembled”. As golf auctions go, this is big.
Presenting an unprecedented selection of historic clubs, balls, paintings, ceramics and books, the collection of Jaime Ortiz-Patina, the founder of the Valderrama Golf Club, is expected to realise in excess of £2 million.
Art highlights include the preparatory oil sketch for arguably the most famous painting in the history of golf. The Golfers by Charles Lees (1800-1880) is the study for the painting which now hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Lees depicts a decisive moment on the 15th green of the Old Course at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St Andrews, during a match between Sir David Baird and Sir Ralph Anstruther versus Major Hugh Lyon Playfair and John Campbell of Glen Saddel.
The composition features many individual portraits of golfing personalities among the engrossed spectators. The artist was to add two games of golf to the background, and increase the number of spectators, for his finished painting. The estimate is £120,000 – £180,000.
The Golf Links, North Berwick by Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) will be offered with an estimate of £150,000 – £250,000. This painting is from a series of works the artist painted at the Scottish golf course in 1921 and 1922, another example of which is at Tate Britain. They are the most valuable and desirable modern depictions of the game.
Tom Morris (1821-1908), known as ‘Old Tom’, is to golf what W.G. Grace is to cricket. One of the premier players of his day, and a very good ball and club maker, he played in the first Open at Prestwick in 1860 and went on to win it four times. He became The R&A’s first professional and ‘keeper of the green’.
A putter owned and used by the great man himself and his son ‘Young Tom’, a golfing prodigy who sadly died aged 25, is one of the remarkable wooden clubs offered in the catalogue. Crafted by Hugh Philp, a master club-maker based at St Andrews, Christie’s thinks that a bid in the region of £40,000 – £70,000 will buy you this iconic piece of golfing heritage. Perhaps this was the very club that secured some of the eight Open triumphs shared by the family.
Old Tom was apprenticed at the age of 18 as a feather ball maker to Allan Robertson, who made the ball inscribed ‘a new kind of golf ball made of gutta-percha in the year 1849’ (estimate £12,000 – £18,000). Gutta-percha is the evaporated latex produced from a rubber tree most commonly found in Malaysia.
The improved durability and performance of the ‘gutta’ ball, introduced in 1848, together with its much lower cost, contributed considerably to the spread of popularity of the game of golf. As with most innovations, the new technology met with some resistance at first, not least from Robertson himself. Nevertheless, in 1858, the man known simply as ‘Allan’ (the ball is stamped accordingly) became the first player to score under 80 on the Old Course, using a gutta.
In a high quality field of early golfing literature, a first edition of Thomas Mathison’s The Goff. An Heroi-Comical Poem stands out. Published in Edinburgh in 1743, it is the first separately printed book devoted entirely to golf (£30,000 – £50,000).
The first official rules of the game were written in 1744 by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who now play at Muirfield in East Lothian – there were just 13 of them! A single-sheet early printing of the rules from 1818, comprising an expanded 14 articles, is guided at £7,000 – £10,000.
Surely one of the great items of American golfing ‘ephemera’ is the exceedingly rare programme for the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934. Between 1934 and 1938 the event was promoted as ‘The Augusta Invitation Tournament’. Interestingly, in light of the proudly sponsor-free policy of the Augusta National authorities, the 44-page booklet (estimate £5,000 – £8,000) contains advertisements. There was a programme issued for the following year’s tournament in 1935, but it was not until 1990 that the next Masters programme was published.
Enquiries to Christie’s Specialist Edward Monagle: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 389 2622.
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