Golf memorabilia dealers are never busier than when a major tournament tees off.
With the NZ Open in full swing at The Hills this week, two local traders are already seeing business booming.
Russell Blackstock looks for a bargain
He’s got the Wright stuff
Arrowtowner David Wright (right) has an Aladdin’s Cave of golfing memorabilia for offer on the internet.
The retired golf professional says he personally collected “hundreds” of autographed items from some of the game’s all-time greats, such as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Greg Norman, while working around the world.
The Englishman also amassed signed belongings from stars of showbiz, sport and politics while teaching at top courses in the United States, Asia and Australia.
During a stint as senior pro at the exclusive Mirage resort at Port Douglas, North Queensland, he got to rub shoulders with Hollywood idols like George Clooney, John Travolta and Clint Eastwood.
He even played a round there with former US President Bill Clinton – the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened in New York in 2001. A return match scheduled for the next morning was cancelled.
Wright rarely missed an opportunity to add to his collection of celebrity goodies.
“I often used to do a contra deal if a particular big name came in for a lesson,” he says. “I’d take a signed photo or album for payment and call it quits. I got a lot of stuff like that.”
Wright has his items for sale on the TradeMe auction site and has a worldwide customer base.
Golfing memorabilia is big business – and interest peaks when major tournaments like the NZ Open are on, he says.
“You get spikes of interest around the majors,” he says. “When it was announced that Michael Campbell, the former US Open champion, was due to be coming down to the NZ Open, there was a spike of interest in his memorabilia.
“There was also a huge interest in items for Sir Bob Charles around the last Open because he did so well.
“Signed photographs of Sir Bob from when he won the British Open in 1963 are a particularly good investment.”
But Wright warns buyers should be careful as the business is now flooded with fakes.
“The only 100 per cent way of guaranteeing you have a genuine signature from a celebrity is to stand there in front of the person and watch them sign it for you.”
My favourite collectables
- Signed 1930s photo of King Edward VIII on a golfing day in the US, posing with golfing legends of the day such as Walter Hagen, Johnny Farrell and Horton Smith
- Flag that flew on the first green during the 1996 US PGA Championship
- Flag from the 18th green at the 2002 Tour Championship in Georgia, US, won by Vijay Singh
- Box-framed collection, including a signed golf ball, from astronaut Alan Shepard, first American in space and the only man to hit golf balls on the moon
- Programme from the 2000 US PGA Championship at Valhalla, Kentucky, US, signed by winner Tiger Woods
You have to know when to let go
Allan McKay (right) reckons the hardest bit about dealing in golfing memorabilia is parting with treasured items.
The golf professional at Queenstown Golf Club has been squirreling away rarities since the mid-90s.
He also runs the The Old Club shop in Arrowtown, offering everything from antique clubs to ceramics and collectable golfing books.
“I found a real interest in golf memorabilia about 15 years ago and started gathering it feverishly,” says McKay.
“Most golf pros are collectors by default.
“But for me, the challenge was to get my head around not being a collector and starting to be a dealer because there was some really good stuff I’d accumulated that I had to watch walk out the shop.
“I got over it in a hurry when the bills started coming in for the rent.”
McKay is hoping the till will be ringing at The Old Club this week when thousands of golf fans arrive for the New Zealand Open at nearby course The Hills.
“We’re banking a lot on the time around the tournament,” he admits.
“But we’re not just an antique shop and have a lot of golf-orientated giftware, too.”
He hit on the idea of starting the shop after staging a successful exhibition at Millbrook Resort around the time of the last NZ Open – played at The Hills in November/December 2007.
“I was invited to put the stuff forward to mark the 100th anniversary of the tournament,” he says.
“I got a wonderful response and it was from that I thought I’d like to have a go at dealing.
“The opportunity to get this cute little shop on the main street in Arrowtown came along and I thought I’d give it a go.”
Most of the 400-or-so items of in-store memorabilia have come from the UK. Others were picked up by McKay while scouring antique shops and auctions in New Zealand and Australia.
“It has been reasonably successful but the majority of the buyers and collectors come from overseas,” he adds.
“We do get a lot of people in the shop. But if we’d charged a two-dollar entry fee, we’d have made more as a museum.”
My favourite collectables
- Two ‘cleek’ clubs, circa 1860, made before the advent of irons
- Some long-nosed woods from around 1870-80
- A book from 1887 called The Art of Golf by Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson
- Rare Royal Doulton golfing ceramics, including plates, jugs and tumblers
- A 1906 book of classic cartoon prints The Rules of Golf by Charles Crombie