Masters ballhawkers make tough calls with valuable souvenirs from Louis Oosthuizen, Phil Mickelson
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The first ball was a Titleist 4 with a dot on it. The second ball was a Callaway HEX Black Tour with four dots on it.
The first was originally owned by Louis Oosthuizen only to wind up in the pocket of Wayne Mitchell, a New Zealander living in Allentown, Pa. who spent Sunday in the gallery of the Masters.
The second belonged to Phil Mickelson but ended up in the pocket of Carl Morton, who hails from the Augusta suburb of Martinez and was here working for the CBS broadcast.
Until Bubba Watson won the Masters on a dramatic, out of the woods, hooking wedge shot on the second playoff hole, they represented what could’ve been two of the most famous shots in the tournament’s history.
And they were golf balls that neither man who struck them wanted. And while the men who got them decided to do different things, neither actively entered the lucrative memorabilia market.
It began on the second hole, when Oosthuizen’s Titleist sat in the second fairway, 253 yards from the pin. The South African attacked it with his 4-iron. It flew through the air, splitting two bunkers and hitting the front edge of the green. It took one giant bounce and then began to roll, curving like a cup-seeking missile 28 yards until it went into the hole.
It gave Oosthuizen a lead in the tournament that he wouldn’t relinquish until the playoff. For a long time it looked like that shot would win him a green jacket. It was just the fourth albatross, or double eagle, in Masters history and the first on the second hole. They’ve held the tournament since 1934. As it went in, Oosthuizen stood in the fairway, lifted both arms in the air and then exchanged, with varying degrees of success, high-fives with his caddie.
When he reached the green, he pulled the Titleist out of the hole and flipped it into the gallery, where Mitchell, seated in the front row since 10:30 a.m. ET got it and pocketed it.
“My biggest fear was that I would drop it,” he told Yahoo! Sports. “I’m not a souvenir chaser. But there were about 100 people behind me who would have gone for it.”
One memorabilia company offered $20,000 for the ball on Twitter, although how serious that offer was is debatable. The ball certainly lost value when Oosthuizen failed to win the tournament.
Mitchell said he was “respectful” of the club’s tradition and would gladly return it to the player if he wanted it back. He gladly showed it off to reporters and cameramen, the ball showing Oosthuizen’s signature single dot on it as identification.
Money was clearly not a motivation for Mitchell. He and his wife were set to fly out of an executive airport in South Carolina on Sunday night, which isn’t exactly like taking Greyhound.
On Sunday afternoon, he met some members of Augusta National and gave the ball to them. The club declined to say what, if any, compensation, monetarily or otherwise (perhaps a round of golf on the famed course?) was made.
Meanwhile, Mickelson’s Callaway HEX Black Tour, with the player’s trademark four dots of ink on it, sat on the fourth tee box, 240 yards from the hole. Mickelson smacked it with a 4-iron. He wanted to go at a bunker on the left side of the green and then fade in toward the pin.
It went left but never came back, slamming into the grandstands, bouncing high in the air and winding up down a hill in some deep growth. Mickelson first knocked it out of the bushes, then he pitched into a bunker, then hit out of the bunker and finally putted in for a triple bogey that all but ended his Masters.
“Disappointing,” Mickelson said.
So disappointing that Mickelson took the ball and as he walked off the green and threw it into the woods.
Morton, who was working in production for CBS, saw that and went looking for the ball with some coworkers. Under some brush he found it, Mickelson’s triple-bogey ball, which while not as famous as Oosthuizen’s albatross shot, was now certainly a bit of Master’s history. It represented Mickelson’s one-hole meltdown that cost him a fourth green jacket.
“After the hole he just threw it in the woods,” Morton said, showing the ball and Mickelson’s four-dot signature.
Since the television cameras didn’t pick up on Mickelson discarding the ball, there were no immediate offers of money from memorabilia companies or Augusta National itself. There was no fanfare at all.
Morton didn’t care. He had the ball in his pocket and was proud of it.
“I’m going to put it in a case in my house,” he said.
What about if someone wants to buy it with big money?
“No way, I’m not selling it,” he said. “I want to keep it for myself.”
And so that was that. Two famous shots. Two famous balls. And two unexpected decisions on what to do with golfing treasure.
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