Last Tuesday, Dallas County District Judge Emily Tobolowsky temporary halted Heritage Auctions' planned sale of the 1959 Masters green jacket. Augusta National, the famed Georgia golf club that hosts the tournament, had sued Heritage to have the auction stopped, claiming that the jacket had been stolen by former employees and that it, like every other Masters jacket in existence, rightfully belonged to the club.
Watching the legal tussle from the sidelines was the person who just 10 months before had anonymously purchased the jacket from a New Jersey auction house for $61,000.
He's anonymous no more. Dr. Stephen Pyles, a Florida physician, intervened in the ongoing court case yesterday, filing documents making the argument that he, not Augusta, has rightful claim to the jacket.
Pyles, represented by Dallas attorney Mark Senter, points out that Augusta made no objection when the jacket was auctioned last April, nor did club representatives return numerous phone calls in advance of that sale.
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The filing then proceeds to chip away at some of the mystique of the green jacket. Specifically, Augusta's claim that the jackets are kept at the club under lock and key and that golfers have never been allowed to keep them, is bullshit.
How else could Gary Player's jacket from 1961 be in South Africa? Or how could Doug Ford's wind up in the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida, after being auctioned in 2010? Speaking of the Hall of Fame, what about those green jackets, worn by Jack Nicklaus, Sandy Lyle, Henry Picard, and others, supposedly not allowed to leave Augusta, that were hung there? Finally, if the jacket was so sacrosanct, why did club founder Cliff Roberts provide a replacement to Sam Snead after he lost his, from 1949, in a poker game?
Pyles also can't resist pointing out that Augusta doesn't seem quite to know when its signature tournament take place. In its lawsuit, it's described as a tournament that takes place "in May of each year," which seems to fly in the face of the fact that this year's tournament will take place from April 11-14.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the jacket is Pyles' and he can sell it if he damn well pleases. He wants damages, too, since Augusta's lawsuit "may taint the jacket's reputation" and eat into the $90,000 he was expected to fetch last week. Augusta has not yet filed a response, but will have a representative in court for a hearing on the injunction set for March 4.