Portion of Snead's trophies offered at auction
The Masters trophy Sam Snead won in 1954 after the epic playoff with Ben Hogan. The claret jug when Snead won his only British Open at St. Andrews. The gold medal for the 1942 PGA Championship, the first of his seven major championships.
Those are among 14 lots from the Sam Snead Collection that will be the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions' offerings next month in Chicago.
"We consider it the most significant golf collection that's ever been offered,'' said Chris Ivy, director of sports at Heritage Auctions.
Snead, who died in 2002, was the most prolific winner in PGA Tour history with 82 victories. Jack Snead, his son, said the trophies and memorabilia for years have been displayed at The Greenbrier Resort, the restaurant chain called Sam Snead's Taverns, the occasional museum and at home in Hot Springs, Va.
This is the first time the items have been offered at auction.
"We've been thinking about this, trying to decide what to do because our company has so much stuff,'' Jack Snead said Tuesday. "We just thought maybe it was time to share it with golf fans and historians. We've had most all of dad's trophies on display at The Greenbrier [where Snead served as club pro emeritus] over the last 16 or 20 years. I don't know. I'm not too keen with museums. We've had some weird experiences with museums when we've loaned things out.
"We're going to have tons of stuff we'll maintain ourselves,'' he said. "The rest we'll let it go out and see what happens.''
The first offering will be Aug. 1-2 in what Heritage calls "Platinum Night Sports Auction'' at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Ill. The online bidding began Wednesday night.
Two other auctions involving the Snead Collection are planned for the fall and next spring.
The Masters' trophy and silver claret jug are each expected to bring in $100,000 or more. Ivy estimated the entire collection will get several million dollars. "A collection of this magnitude hasn't been offered before,'' he said.
Ivy said previous golf items through Heritage included the original Augusta National green jacket of co-founder Bobby Jones that fetched $310,000.
Other high-end golf items were Walter Hagen's gold medal from his 1922 British Open win at Royal St. George's and Ralph Guldahl's gold medal from the 1939 Masters. Each went for $65,000.
Jack Snead said the proceeds would likely to go charity.
"The trophies didn't mean that much to Pop in a way,'' he said. "In those days, he was more concerned with the pay check. The thing he was most proud of was his record. He cared more about than any of his tournament wins.''
Jack Snead said there were some items that would never be sold at auction, though they weren't all related to Sam Snead's golfing career. He mentioned the tractor that his father rode on his farm in Virginia to relax when he was away from golf, some of the guns he had since he was a boy growing up in West Virginia, and the five-string banjo he played.
For Heritage Sports, there wasn't as much work involved in authenticating the items. Sam Snead did that himself.
His son said when they used to display the items in Sam Snead's Taverns, his father thought it would be a good idea to write a note explaining the significance of each.
"The provenance is much better coming from the family of an athlete,'' Ivy said. "That's something Snead did that I've never seen done before. He went through and numbered all the clubs he owned - the significant ones - and wrote letters of authentication of each club. We've got handwritten letters from Sam Snead saying, 'This is the club used in 1954 in the playoff with Ben Hogan to win the Masters.' He's got literally hundreds of those.''
Other items being offered in the initial auction include the putter Snead used in the 1954 Masters; the red captain's jacket he wore in the 1969 Ryder Cup; the Wanamaker Trophy from his 1951 PGA Championship victory at Oakmont; a Ryder Cup trophy from 1959; the gold medal from his first Masters win in 1949; and a silver medal from the 1947 U.S. Open. The U.S. Open was the one major Sam Snead never won. He lost in a playoff to Lew Worsham in 1947 at St. Louis Country Club.
"It's a pretty exciting collection,'' Ivy said.