Green Jacket Flak – Augusta National Sues to Stop Sale of Championship Threads
On March 11, 2013, U.S. District Judge Emily Tobolowsky granted a temporary injunction to the Augusta National Golf Club, which suspends the sale of a fabled green jacket by the Dallas-based company Heritage Auctions.
The dispute between Augusta National and Heritage Auctions arose in February when Dr. Stephen Pyles, a golf memorabilia collector from Florida, attempted to sell Art Wall Jr.’s green jacket from the 1959 Masters Tournament. Pyles had purchased the jacket at a similar auction last year for $61,452.55. However, Augusta National claims that the jacket purchased by Pyles was one of four green jackets to be stolen from the club last year (the other three have since been recovered). A trial has now been ordered to resolve the ownership issue.
Pyles and Heritage Auctions assert that Augusta National can’t prove that the jacket was stolen, or, alternatively, that the club has no ownership interest in the jacket to begin with. Augusta National strongly disagrees. The club noted that after a new Masters champion is determined, he is given a temporary green jacket from the Augusta National clubhouse until a custom jacket can be created. However, the champion has traditionally only been allowed to keep the jacket for a year. Once that year is up, Augusta National insists that the Masters champion is supposed to bring the jacket back for storage at Augusta National’s clubhouse (where he can wear it at the club whenever he returns).
For the most part, this unspoken tradition has been adhered to. But some green jackets (such as one owned by Gary Player and another sold by Doug Ford at auction in 2010) escaped the clubhouse grounds and never returned. More importantly, no legal action was ever taken to recover them.
Pyles insists that the “tradition” and Augusta National’s ownership claim over all of the green jackets is nonsense, stating, “I have owned six, maybe seven, green jackets . . . I can go on to the Internet right now and buy you a member’s green jacket.” Ryan Carey, the owner of GreenJacketAuctions.com, agreed, calling the green jacket tradition a “myth that has been perpetuated for years.” Carey commented, “There are [ ] plenty of green jackets out there, both members’ and champions’ jackets . . . I’m not sure if August National really realizes that, but I guess for the first time it is going to try to assert that it is the rightful owner of them.”