Premier Comic Book Collection Donated to USGA July 22, 2020 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Rand Jerris, USGA

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I have vivid memories of the first comic book I ever purchased. When I was young, my grandparents lived in an old mill town in central Massachusetts (Athol, population roughly 12,000). There was a convenience store down the street from their home that sold anything and everything you might expect to find at a neighborhood market. The first time I was allowed to journey down to the Corner Store by myself, a single quarter in my hand, I came back with two packs of Topps baseball cards, hoping to find Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski inside.

On my second trip, I came back with a “Richie Rich and Casper” comic book. I probably read that comic book a hundred times, until the pages became dirty and torn, the cover fell off and my mother threw it away. To be clear, I was never a comic collector (no visions of Sheldon and Howard necessary, if you please) and I’ve never set foot in a comic book store. But as a museum professional and an art historian, I can understand and appreciate the role that comics have played in American art and popular culture.

One of the stories that we highlight in the galleries at the USGA Golf Museum is the intersection of golf with popular culture. Beginning in the late 1800s, with the so-called “Golf Boom” that started in the British Isles and soon spread around the globe, golf was featured in just about every form of artistic and cultural expression, including music, theater, film, art and literature. We collect, preserve and exhibit such materials in the Museum, for we recognize that these alternative methods of storytelling are important paths by which many people are first exposed to our sport.

Golf first appeared on the cover of an American comic book in 1934 – Famous Funnies #1 – which, it turns out, is today recognized as the first proper comic book ever published. In the ensuing decades, golf has been featured on the covers of more than 500 comic book issues, involving just about every major character in comic book history. The first golf comic featuring Mickey Mouse was published in 1934. The first golf comic featuring Superman was published in 1946. Archie and his friends have appeared on more than 80 golf-related covers, the most of any comic book franchise.

It was during these early decades that comic book readership peaked, with sales in the United States approaching 100 million copies every month in 1948. The characters, storylines and messages presented by comic books played important roles in influencing the beliefs, principles and culture of American consumers, especially children and teens.

As a historian, it is fascinating to place these comic books against moments in American history and understand how and why various characters and storylines became popular at certain times – how, for example, the first American superheroes appeared in the late 1930s when oppressive dictatorial regimes were emerging in Germany, Italy and Japan; or why Beetle Bailey became so popular during the Korean War and remained popular through the decade-long war in Vietnam.

We can also follow individual characters as they evolve over time, reflecting changes in American society and its values. Dagwood Bumstead was originally cast as the heir to a great manufacturing fortune when he first met Blondie in the late 1920s, but by the 1950s the now-married couple had settled into typical middle-class life in suburban America. The early storylines for Patsy Walker focused largely on her good looks, bright personality, and prowess in romance and domesticity. She was among the so-called “Good Girl” comic characters of the 1950s, which promoted a female archetype based on physical appearance and traditional female roles. In the 1970s, Patsy was completely recast as “Hellcat,” a bad-ass member of The Avengers team of superheroes. This important notion that comic books reflect changing American values can be extended to help us, as golf historians, understand evolving perceptions of the sport and its role in our communities through time.

In June, the world’s finest collection of golf comics arrived in Liberty Corner, an extraordinary gift from Charlie and Sara Haviza to the USGA Golf Museum. For more than 30 years, while Charlie worked as the athletic director at a middle school in Indiana, Charlie and Sara spent their weekends, holidays and summer vacations traveling to comic book conventions and visiting comic book stores hoping to find comic books with golf depicted on the cover.

Through time, with remarkable determination and focus, they amassed a collection of more than 560 golf comics and became the world’s leading authorities on the topic. Always generous with their knowledge and expertise, they patiently answered every question from any collector (or would-be collector). On two occasions they published illustrated compendia of their collection, which serve as the ultimate resource for anyone seeking to collect golf comics.

As longtime USGA Members, Charlie and Sara recently made the decision to donate their collection to our Museum, confident that the USGA has the resources and commitment both to preserve their collection at the highest standards, as well as to share their collection with audiences for generations to come.

Michael Hurdzan, noted golf course architect, co-designer of Erin Hills (host to the 2017 U.S. Open and 2025 U.S. Women’s Open) and golf collector par excellence, counts more than 300 comic books among his vast collections of the game’s history. “I have always been impressed by how many Archie comics include golf,” Hurdzan explained when he was asked recently why he collects comic books. “I’m sure this is how kids who read comic books got interested in golf. It may have been subliminal, but it was there. And that’s what’s interesting to me – how golf became so ingrained in American culture.”

When asked about Charlie Haviza, Hurdzan answered quite simply, “His collection is the best in the world… And we always considered him the god.” We are honored and humbled that Charlie and Sara have placed their legacy – their personal passion for the past three decades – in our hands to carry forward.

Rand Jerris is the senior director of Public Services for the USGA.

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