Golf Memorabilia

"The Last Of The Big Sales"

Continued (page 2 of 2)

"The good stuff sold, the rest didn't," said British golf bookseller, collector and trader Rhod McEwan in the now deserted auction room. McEwan, who always has the most interesting stall in the tented village at the British Open each year, picked up a half dozen items at the auction including some ceramics, clubs, three antique balls and a book. "It's a buyers' market. I feel rather sad for the owner -- today was a case of people taking the cream off the top. All those long-nose woods --maybe only half of those sold. It's sad."

"Jimmy," now 82, is the grandson of mining magnate Simón Patiño, who was born a penniless Spanish peasant and was said to be one of the richest men in the world by the time of his death in 1947. The young Patiño was born in Paris, educated in England, Switzerland and the United States, but his passion has always been games. In his youth he was a talented tennis player who competed in the French and Italian Opens. He's an avid bridge player who spent 10 years as president of the World Bridge Federation, for which he is now "president emeritus." After liquidating his interests in the family business in 1982, the onetime 7-handicapper turned his attentions fully to golf. In 1985 he bought Las Aves Golf Club in southern Spain for $6 million and poured a fortune into its recreation as Valderrama, dubbed "the Augusta National of Europe." It was the venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup.

So why was Patiño selling off all the family silver now? Why buy high and sell low? "I'm surprised he sold it," said McCormick.

"I've heard a few rumors and theories," said one golf insider at the auction. "The most obvious one is, he needs the money."

"This was the last of the big golf sales," said McEwan. "No one else has anything like the breadth or antiquity of this collection. It was unique. We won't see its like again."

Stephan Juskewycz, chairman of the golf memorabilia store "Golf Links to the Past," which sits beside the first tee at Pebble Beach, bought a number of antique featherie balls. "But I wanted to be here anyway even if I didn't buy anything," he said. "This auction is part of golf collection history. We'll never again see a collection like this, owned by one person, come up for sale. It was really a privilege to see it."

St. Andrews: Surviving Open Champion

St. Andrews: Surviving Open Champions, 1905; £67,250 ($104,910)

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