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March 04, 2013

Augusta National files suit over sale of green jacket

Posted at 6:29 PM by Coleman McDowell | Categories: Green Jacket, Masters

BubbaIn February, Dr. Stephen Pyles, a golf memorabilia collector in Florida, tried to sell Art Wall Jr's green jacket believed to be presented to him after winning the 1959 Masters.

The sale, which was supposed to take place through Heritage Auctions in Dallas, was put under a 14-day restraining order in February after a lawsuit was filed by Augusta National Golf Club and ended with a hearing on Monday.

The club filed a lawsuit claiming each green jacket given to Masters winners or club members are property of Augusta National - not to mention the club also belives the jacket in question to be stolen.

In a confusing story with the two sides telling two vastly different tales, Augusta National claimed all green jackets belong in its clubhouse after the winners can take the jacket away from the course for one year.

"Thereafter, it must be stored on ANI (Augusta National Inc.) premises for use only on the grounds and during the annual tournament,” the lawsuit claimed according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “Thus, a champion’s Green Jacket is owned by ANI, with a champion having possessory rights when on the premises of ANI.”

Pyles disagrees.

“I have owned six, maybe seven, green jackets," Pyles told the AJC. "I can go on the Internet right now and buy you a member’s green jacket.”

Pyles purchased Wall Jr's jacket at a 2012 auction for $62,000 and was trying to flip the jacket for "upwards of $90,000."

Augusta National also claims the jacket is stolen. After an inventory in 2010 placed the jacket on the club's premises, the lawsuit states it went missing after four jackets were stolen by former employees.

This time it's Pyles's lawyer who doesn't agree.

Mark Senter, the attorney for Heritage Auctions and Pyles, said there has been no police report to back up the claim of the theft. He refers to other newspaper stories in which Wall’s son, Greg, said his father, who died in 2001, told his family that the coat had simply disappeared and offered no other details.

Ryan Carey, owner of GreenJacketAuctions.com, said the idea that each green jacket is kept under strict security within the gates of Augusta National is “a myth that has been perpetuated for many years.”

“There are (relatively) plenty of green jackets that are out there, both members’ and champions’ jackets,” he said. “I’m not sure if Augusta 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.”

Wall Jr. earned the green jacket in question in '59 after shooting a 66 with five birdies in the final six holes to pass Arnold Palmer and Cary Middlecoff for victory.

(Photo: Kohjiro Kinno / SI)

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