David Lauderdale

New book illustrates world's long love affair with golf

The cover of Dick McDonough's and Peter Georgiady's book, "Great Golf Collections of the World".
The cover of Dick McDonough's and Peter Georgiady's book, "Great Golf Collections of the World". Submitted photo

We think we live in a place steeped in golf history.

On Hilton Head Island, our professional tournament called the Heritage sprang to life in 1969 A.D.

A new book by a Savannah writer and Ridgeland publisher gives a much longer view of the vexing game.

It shows what the world's best collectors of golf collectibles collect.

And while few collectibles are as old as the game, the book's 640 images depict an uncanny, centuries-old link between mankind and the joy of knocking a ball into a hole.

In "Great Golf Collections of the World," we see a golf ball made from a leather flight jacket by a World War II prisoner of war. We see Mickey Mouse and Superman teeing it up on comic book covers. We see Alastair J. Johnston's golf library of more than 22,000 volumes, and thousands of golf clubs in Arnold Palmer's collection.

"Whether you're a golf historian or a person who fears getting trapped in a conversation with one, 'Great Golf Collections of the World' is a new book that's worth your time," writes Max Adler in Golf Digest.

Dick McDonough of Savannah, a collector of golf artwork, and Peter Georgiady, an authority on antique golf equipment, spent five years traveling the globe to document this glimpse into the hidden treasures of golf. They are hidden because most of the 36 collections depicted are private.

Paul DeVere of Saron Press in Ridgeland published the coffee-table book that he said started as a project for the Smithsonian. Collections from nine private golf clubs are shown, and the book includes brief narratives on clubs, balls and tees.

McDonough said collectors dive deep into specific niches, such as postcards, autographed photos, posters, ads, travel brochures, prize medals or ceramics. Anything on Bobby Jones is hot, he said. But McDonough was surprised that the greatest public reaction has centered on the long history of the lowly tee.

On Page 19 is a portrait very familiar to Hilton Head. It is the first-ever published golf print, dating to 1793. It shows one William Innes in a captain's uniform, a club over his shoulder and a caddie nearby with a whiskey bottle in his pocket.

Flash forward 175 years, and Charles E. Fraser, the founder of Sea Pines, used that print to brand his new golf tournament on Hilton Head. Sir Willie Innes remains the symbol of what is now the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

Fraser gave his Heritage tournament an instant, yet ancient storyline. It wasn't just a golf tournament. In Fraser's world, it was a red stake in the sand with traditions that still mark the passage of time, generation after generation, much like the U.S. Open being played this weekend in Pinehurst, N.C.

Fraser claimed the Heritage was the successor of the nation's first golf club, founded in 1786 right up the creek in a suburb of Hilton Head called Charleston.

Fraser is gone, but his tournament lives, and so does its storyline.

The pages of "Great Golf Collections of the World" illustrate once again how Fraser was ahead of his time.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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