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Top 15 USGA Museum Acquisitions of the Past Decade January 15, 2020 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Victoria Nenno, USGA

The USGA Museum possesses Francis Ouimet's gold medals from his three USGA titles, including the 1913 U.S. Open. (USGA/Jose R. Lopez)

You may know that the USGA Golf Museum contains artifacts such as the Moon Club, Bob Jones’ putter “Calamity Jane II,” and Ben Hogan’s 1-iron, but you may not know that our collection includes artifacts from cultural icons, movie stars, and sports and political heroes, as well as photography, films and a world-class library.

As 2020 begins, we’re looking back on some of the Museum’s most interesting and impactful acquisitions over the last decade. Check out this list of our favorites and the year they joined our diverse collection:

Francis Ouimet’s USGA Championship Gold Medals (2019) 

As a 20-year-old Boston amateur, Francis Ouimet defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a historic playoff for the 1913 U.S. Open, inspiring a generation of working-class players to take up the game. The three USGA gold medals won by Ouimet for his victories in the 1913 U.S. Open and the 1914 and 1931 U.S. Amateurs had been on loan to the Museum since 1984. When the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund decided to sell the medals in support of its scholarship program, Museum supporter Don Wilson generously donated the funds for the USGA to purchase them. The medals officially entered the collection in 2019 and remain on permanent display. 

For more on the medals and Mr. Wilson’s donation, see the following link: Generous Donation Keeps Medals at USGA Golf Museum

Gary Woodland’s Wedge from the 2019 U.S. Open (2019)

Several iconic U.S. Open shots have occurred on the oceanside par-3 17th hole at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, and Gary Woodland’s gutsy chip from the green at the 2019 championship was no exception. Woodland’s creative shot allowed him to save par and retain his two-stroke lead over defending champion Brooks Koepka on the way to winning his first major title. Woodland donated the wedge he used to the Museum following his victory. 

For highlights from Woodland’s final round, see the following link: 2019 U.S. Open: Gary Woodland's Final Round 

Amelia Earhart’s Golf Clubs and Bag (2011)

Known for her exploits in aviation, her activism for equal rights for women, and her mysterious disappearance, Amelia Earhart courageously broke barriers in society, politics and flight. Earhart was athletic and adventurous from an early age, and she played golf at Lakeside Golf Course in Burbank, Calif., where she lived in the 1930s. Earhart was also a close friend of four-time USGA champion Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and the Museum acquired Earhart’s golf bag, monogrammed headcovers and clubs from the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation in 2011. 

For more on Earhart and her artifacts in the collection, click the following link: Amelia Earhart: More Than an Aviator

The Jack Nicklaus Room (2015)

Since the creation of the 1,200-square-foot Jack Nicklaus Room in 2015, visitors to the USGA Golf Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J., can experience many of the iconic artifacts that celebrate the life and career of the 18-time major champion, in partnership with the Jack Nicklaus Museum. Though not an acquisition, the room is an important addition to the Museum and a fitting tribute to the eight-time USGA champion. The exhibits highlight character traits that made Nicklaus the game’s greatest major champion, using over 80 personal mementos, equipment, art, championship footage and exclusive interviews. 

For images of the Jack Nicklaus Room, see the following link: Jack Nicklaus Room Opening

“Happy Gilmore” Putter, No. 1/1000 (2012) 

Sometimes great golf moments occur on the silver screen. In 2012, the Museum acquired one of the hockey stick putters used during filming of the 1996 cult classic, “Happy Gilmore,” starring Adam Sandler. We can almost hear him saying, “Just tap it in. Just tap it in. Give it a little tappy.”

Golf and the Olympics: Then and Now (2016)

In 2016, golf returned to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904. The Museum acquired items from both the modern and historic events, including the trophy Francis C. Newton received as a semifinalist in the 1904 men’s tournament at Glen Echo C.C. in St. Louis, Mo., and the hat worn by Inbee Park during the second round of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where Park won the women’s gold medal representing the Republic of Korea. 

For more on golf at the 1904 Olympics, visit the following link: USGA Museum to Display Egan's 1904 Olympic Golf Medals

Ann Gregory’s Contestant Badge from the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur (2017) 

In 1956, Ann Gregory became the first African American to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur. In everyday life and on the golf course, Gregory elevated the status of African Americans with grace and courage during an era of discrimination. The Museum acquired this badge, worn by Gregory when she competed in the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur, from the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation, as it was one of Babe’s most prized possessions. 

For more on Gregory and her collection at the USGA, visit the following link: Obstacles No Match for Gregory 

Bing Crosby’s Shillelagh (2012) and Bob Hope’s Wedge (2019)

Actors Bing Crosby and Bob Hope leveraged their fame, comedic talent and love of golf to promote the game and charitable endeavors. The Museum acquired Crosby’s gag club, an oversized shillelagh, which would have been used during exhibitions, like those the two participated in during World War II to raise millions of dollars for the war effort and the American Red Cross. Hope and Crosby were co-recipients of the 1978 Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor for distinguished sportsmanship in golf. 

For more on the Museum’s collection of Crosby artifacts, see the following link: Bing Crosby: America's Favorite Crooner On The Course

Mickey Wright’s Typewriter (2012) 

In advance of the opening of the Museum’s Mickey Wright Room in 2012, the four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion donated more than 200 personal artifacts, including this typewriter on which she wrote letters to fellow players and sponsors, as well as her national syndicated newspaper column. Wright, considered by many to have the most perfect swing in golf, kept the fledgling LPGA Tour alive with her talent and charisma, winning 82 professional tournaments over her career.

For more information on the Mickey Wright Room and her collection, click the following link: USGA Welcomes Mickey Wright Collection

Justin Thomas’ Pants from Round 3 of the 2017 U.S. Open (2017)

Justin Thomas turned heads during the third round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., with more than just his record-breaking performance. While posting a 9-under-par 63, which broke the U.S. Open record for most strokes under par in a single round, Thomas made a fun fashion statement with a pair of neon-pink Ralph Lauren pants, which he donated to the Museum. 

For highlights of Thomas’ historic round, see the following link: 2017 U.S. Open: Justin Thomas' Historic Third-Round 63 

The Museum acquired Justin Thomas' pink pants from his 9-under 63 in Round 3 of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. (USGA/Jose R. Lopez)

Jackie Robinson’s 4-Wood Headcover (2011)

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, becoming the first African American to play on a major league team. Over the next decade, Robinson served as a star player on the Brooklyn Dodgers and fought for equal rights on and off the field. Robinson was an avid golfer, and his 4-wood headcover includes a smaller “2” added to honor his uniform number of 42, which was retired by the Dodgers in 1972 and Major League Baseball in 1997. 

For more Museum artifacts related to baseball and golf, click the following link: Inside the Vault: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams

The Probst Collection (2016)

In 2016, the Colonel R. Otto Probst Library, managed by The PGA of America for more than 40 years, merged with the USGA’s extensive library collection of over 100,000 items. Diverse materials including 800 rare books, 1,400 periodicals, diaries and documents, some dating to the 1500s, are some of the most important materials. The transfer of the Probst Collection to the USGA significantly enhanced the world’s largest and most comprehensive golf library open to the public, providing new insights on the past to researchers, historians and golf fans. 

For more on the Probst Collection, visit the following: USGA Teams with PGA of America to House Probst Library Collection

Van Cortlandt Park Permit (2017)

Van Cortlandt Park became the nation’s first public golf course when it opened in New York City’s North Bronx neighborhood on July 6, 1895. Before prolific architect Tom Bendelow expanded the course to 18 holes in 1899, the original nine-hole course could be played for free. Golfers who wanted to play the links acquired a permit from the park’s commissioner, like this one from 1900, acquired by the Museum in 2017. This park permit provides a colorful glimpse into how Americans experienced public golf in its infancy. 

Golf Ball Used for Tiger Woods’ Final Putt, 2002 U.S. Open (2019) 

In 2002, Tiger Woods won his second U.S. Open and eighth USGA championship on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Though Phil Mickelson mounted a charge on the final day, Woods held the lead for all four rounds. Woods holed the final putt of the championship with this Nike ball, which includes the name “TIGER” printed on the reverse side. 

For highlights of the 2002 U.S. Open, visit the following link: 2002 U.S. Open Highlights

President Eisenhower’s Golf Bag (2013)

Though many U.S. presidents have played golf, few loved the game more than President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A close friend of Arnold Palmer and a member of Augusta National, Eisenhower played more than 800 rounds while in office between 1953 and 1961. Eisenhower’s golf bag features patriotic red and blue leather, as well as five gold stars, a nod to the general’s five-star rank. For more on Eisenhower’s love of golf, please see the following link: Dwight D. Eisenhower: Golf's Ultimate Ambassador

Victoria Nenno is the USGA Museum’s senior historian. Email her at vnenno@usga.org.

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