The check that “Old Tom” Morris used to purchase the building and shop on Links Road in St. Andrews, the ancestral home of golf, and the most famous course on the planet, in 1898 is the anchor to the Mark Emerson Collection of Golf Autographs, a grouping of signatures of every Hall of Fame golfer except “Young Tom” Morris – of whom there are no known surviving signatures – part of Heritage Auction Galleries’ April 22-23 Signature® Sports Memorabilia Auction. “The autographs, photos and related ephemera that constitute the Emerson Collection are, in most every instance, the finest known examples available,” said Mike Gutierrez, Consignment Director for Sports Memorabilia at Heritage Auctions and longtime PBS’ Antiques Roadshow appraiser. “Emerson, a lifelong fan of the game and the larger than life personalities that make up its lore, tirelessly pursued each instance and lovingly assembled the collection over the course of the last few decades. A grouping like this will likely never come around again.”
The check with “Old Tom’s” signature is one of very few known copies of the legendary golfer’s autograph. It is estimated at $6,000-$8,000.
“Old Tom Morris was golf’s first impresario and the foremost player of his day, winning four British Open Championships 1861-1867,” said Mike Gutierrez. “This exact item, a cheque for 800 pounds, gave him outright title to the building and shop on Links Road in St. Andrews that bears his name to this day.”
When it comes to American golfing royalty, there is no name more hallowed than that of Robert T. “Bobby” Jones, Jr. who in 1930 captured all four of the then-recognized major championships in the same year. The early 1920s Bobby Jones signed photograph in the Emerson collection is, quite simply, as fine a Bobby Jones item as has ever been offered for public sale. It is estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
“An autographed photo of this caliber is entirely appropriate of Jones, America’s most beloved golfer and the winner of an astonishing 13 majors in eight years, between 1923 and 1930,” said Gutierrez. “This is a special relic relating to possibly the most timeless name in all of American golf.”
Another important American golfing icon, Walter Hagen, is equally well-represented in the Heritage Auctions April Sports Memorabilia sale, with 1924 signed letter, written on Royal Liverpool stationery with a full fountain pen signature. The spectacular content belies the bravado of the new British Open Champion. It is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.
“On behalf of Mrs. Hagen and myself,” he wrote, “I thank British golfers for the great and cordial reception and many kindnesses we have received while with you to play in the Open Championship. I did not come to win it but to try for it and to enjoy the sportsmanship and friendship which has always been extended in such abundance. With my fellow countrymen I look to the Little Island as the home of golf and it is always a joy to play amongst you. I shall try to come next year and defend the title I am so proud to win. Sincerely yours, (signed) Walter Hagen.”
British golf fans who know their history beyond “Old Tom” and “Young Tom” Morris will be intrigued by the inclusion of an exceedingly are 1865 Andrew Strath handwritten and signed wage receipt, possibly the only Strath signature in existence, estimated at $10,000-$15,000.
Strath became the “Keeper of the Greens” at Prestwick in 1865, following “Old Tom” Morris’s resignation and move to St. Andrews, and promptly won the Open Championship at his new home course. He was a brilliant player in golf’s infancy with four other top four finishes in the Open. Sadly he died of tuberculosis in 1868, making this signed and dated receipt for wages the rarest of the rare in major golf championship memorabilia. Remarkably, his unmarked grave was recently discovered and now a commemorative plaque identifies the forgotten Champion.
Further highlights of the collection include, but are not limited to:
1918 Johnny McDermott Signed Photograph: In 1911, Johnny McDermott became the first American-born player to win the National Golf Championship and, to this day, McDermott is the youngest US Open Champion of all time at age 19. All previous US Open winners (1895-1910) had been born in the U.K. In 1912, McDermott won again, but shortly after being rescued from a ship accident in 1914, McDermott blacked out at his host club in Atlantic City and he spent the balance of his life in mental hospitals. This is an extremely rare and significant piece, the only known signed photo of McDermott known to exist. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000.
1894 A.F. MacFie Signed Scorecard: The first British Amateur Championship was held in 1885 at Hoylake and was won by MacFie. Nine years later, young Freddie Tait, who himself would win the Amateur twice (in 1896 and 1898) played a challenge match at The Old Course against “Old Tom” Morris and shot a then course record 72. In Tait’s own hand, he wrote down his scores on this sheet and had it attested by none other than A. F. MacFie. This is the only known signature of the first British Amateur Champion. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000.
1888 John Ball, Jr. Handwritten Signed Letter: John Ball Jr. is the most prolific winner of amateur titles in the history of golf. From 1888-1912 he captured the British Amateur Championship no less than eight times and in 1890 he won the Open Championship. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000.
Circa 1920 Harold H. Hilton Signed Photograph: Harold Hilton had an extremely distinguished career, winning the British Amateur title four times from 1900 to 1913. In that span he also won a US Amateur, in 1911 at Apawamis. If that wasn’t enough, he also won two Open Championships as an amateur–in 1892 at Muirfield and in 1897 at Hoylake. This is an original Sport & General Press Agency photo on original studio mount, signed boldly by the seven time major Champ. Very rare. Image size is 6 x 8, with mount expanding the final dimensions to 8 x 10.5. The signature rates an impressive 8/10. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000.
1937 Jim Barnes Signed Photograph: “Long Jim” Barnes was one of golf’s early stars, winning the very first U.S. PGA Golf Championship in 1916 at Siwanoy. After a two year hiatus for World War I, he won again in 1919, and in 1921 he added the US Open title to his credit with President Warren Harding there in person to present the trophy. His final major championship win came when Prestwick hosted its last British Open in 1925. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000.
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