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Posted: 5:57 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013

First Masters winner’s green jacket for sale

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1934 Masters
AP
Bobby Jones (left) congratulates 1934 Masters winner Horton Smith after the tournament in Augusta, Ga.

By Steve Hummer

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Would you spend $100,000 for a 64-year-old deeply green sport coat, size 43-long, that goes with almost nothing?

Keep in mind that in this case, it’s much more about making a financial statement than a fashion statement.

As of Tuesday afternoon, online bidding at GreenJacketAuctions.com for the ceremonial green jacket belonging to Horton Smith, the first Masters winner, was at $60,229. Before the auction closes Sept. 7, the purchase price may well reach six figures, says the auction house president.

No, an Augusta National membership does not come with the purchase.

“It is the type of item which is hard to put an estimated value on,” said Ryan Carey of the Tampa-based golf memorabilia broker. “It is such a unique piece.

“This was a jacket that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore.”

Horton who?

Smith won the first Masters (1934) and repeated two years later. Beating Bobby Jones in the Savannah Open in 1930, he was the only player to best the Masters founder during his Grand Slam year. Smith went on to become a club pro in the Midwest as well as president of the PGA of America before he died in 1963.

Augusta National did not begin awarding green jackets to the Masters champions until 1949, at which time the club retroactively had jackets made for the nine men who had won the previous 12 tournaments (the tournament was suspended during WWII).

Carey said his research showed that nine of what he called “the original 10” green jackets were unattainable. The other, Smith’s, he had believed to be forever lost.

“This is the best out there until Jack (Nicklaus) or Tiger (Woods) decide to sell one of theirs — which won’t happen any time soon,” Carey said with a snicker.

Lost? Not hardly. Cobb County’s Michael Lackovic and his brother, Tom, have kept Smith’s wearable trophy nice and safe in one closet or another for more than 40 years. Neither has as much as tried it on in all that time; never were they tempted to wear it on a Masters Sunday when another champion was receiving his dream coat.

They even offered it to Augusta National about 10 years ago, Michael said, but when the offer was rather abruptly rejected by a club representative, he decided to return the jacket to the closet.

It was only in July that the brothers approached Carey with the objet d’golf. They had inherited it from their mother, who was married to Horton Smith’s brother, Renshaw. Only once in their lives — and late in Smith’s life — had they met the Masters champion, yet they had held one of his greatest treasures for decades.

“They did not know anything about the value of it or the historical context,” Carey said. “They just knew they had a nice heirloom from a distant ancestor.”

Michael Lackovic is 76. His brother is 79. After reading about an auction in which Al Geiberger sold some of his memorabilia — the putter he used in 1977 in shooting the first round of 59 on the PGA Tour went for more than $7,000 — he decided it was time to do something with his little piece of treasure.

“It would be nice to see it a showcase or in a museum, or somewhere other than a closet,” Michael said. “We’d like to find it a nice home.”

Green jackets have become among the more distinctive spoils of victory in golf. As it is with every custom, Augusta National is ultra-protective of the garment and claims that each winner’s jacket ultimately is club property. The first of the line is not exactly George Washington’s breeches or Christopher Columbus’ cloak, but in the highly lucrative world of Masters memorabilia sales, it is greatly treasured.

Other sales have done handsomely. Bobby Jones’ members’ green jacket brought $310,000. Doug Ford’s 1957 championship jacket fetched $63,000. A Sam Snead Masters trophy brought $191,000.

Another green jacket was in the news earlier this year when Augusta National sued to prevent the auctioning of Art Wall’s 1959 jacket. In winning a temporary injunction, Augusta National contended it was one of four jackets stolen from a club closet. The other three, it said, had been recovered.

Quietly, that issue seems to be on the way to a settlement.

The Florida doctor and Masters collector who bought Wall’s jacket at auction in 2012 for $62,000 with hopes of reselling it for more, was reluctant to comment on its status Tuesday. Saying only, “It’s all good,” Stephen Pyles left the impression that there was a deal in the making between himself and the club.

The famously tight-lipped Augusta National passed on a “no comment” through a spokesman Tuesday, only deepening the mystique around a classically unhip green sport coat and the people who wear it.

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