The clubs Babe Zaharias used for her improbable 1954 U.S. Women's Open victory are being auctioned

February 28, 2024

Zaharias won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open by 12 shots at age 43 a year after surgery for colon cancer that left her wearing a colonoscopy bag.


Golf fans see Ben Hogan (near-fatal car wreck) or Tiger Woods (broken leg) as setting the bar for grittiest golf performances under intense physical challenges. Babe Didrickson Zaharias, however, might have both men beat in the fortitude department. The trailblazing LPGA Tour legend won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open by 12 shots a year after surgery for colon cancer that left her wearing a colostomy bag—and she did it having to walk 36 holes on the final day.

A stream of Zaharias' personal memorabilia has come available in recent months, but none of the items are as iconic as the complete set of clubs she used to win that historic championship at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. Offered by The Golf Auction in its current sale, this lot includes eight Wilson Staff Harmonized Top Notch Dyna-Weighted irons, four Harmonized Woods and a crescent-shaped Spalding Longreen putter, leather BDZ headcovers and Zaharias' custom hand-painted staff bag (see slideshow below). The only club missing from the set is the wedge Zaharias gave to Salem's president the day she won as a gesture of gratitude for the club's hosting of the tournament—now on display at the USGA Museum.

Tournament-used clubs by inner-circle golf legends are scarce. The irons Tiger Woods reportedly used to win his Tiger Slam in 2000-2001 sold for more than $5 million in 2022, and the putter Arnold Palmer used to win the 1964 Masters went for $94,152 in 2017. The Golf Auction sold a set of Jack Nicklaus' early-1960s-era game-used irons for $67,192 in 2023. The set Zaharias used to win her final two events before she died at 42 from the return of colon cancer sold in Golf Auction's last sale for $37,925.

That makes Zaharias' Open-winning set a contender to pass Nicklaus and Palmer and slot in behind Tiger's sticks as the second most valuable piece of player-used memorabilia ever sold when the auction ends March 3.