Player's 1961 green jacket among items for sale

Updated: October 8, 2002, 9:54 AM ET
Reuters

LONDON -- A unique collection of personal golfing memorabilia amassed over the years by Gary Player has gone on sale with a price tag in excess of $5 million.

Player, a winner of nine majors and widely known as the "Black Knight" for wearing black on the golf course, has been persuaded by his family to part with a collection built up after more than 50 years in the game.

Among the numerous items on sale is the green jacket from his 1961 Masters victory, which he inadvertently took home to Johannesburg, South Africa the following year when he lost the title to Arnold Palmer in a playoff.

Masters champions traditionally are supposed to leave their green jackets behind at Augusta National.

The blade putter which Player used to win the Grand Slam of all four major championships -- Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship -- also is up for sale, which will be handled by auction house Christie's in London. It is anticipated that the buyer will keep the collection together and put it on public display.

"There has never been a collection like this before. It is unique," said Christie's director David Llewellyn, who negotiated the sale with Player and his family.

He said he expected the sale to be concluded within six months.

Player's collection is a trove of trophies, medals, paintings, shoes, clubs, gloves, books and memorabilia put together over the years by the man who, along with Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, dominated golf in the 1960s and '70s.

"Nothing is being held back," Llewellyn said. "They are selling everything. This is a major piece of golfing history."

Player, 66, turned professional in 1953 at age 17 and won his first national and international tournaments -- the East Rand Open and the Egyptian Match Play -- two years later.

He won his first major title in the 1959 British Open at Muirfield and his ninth and last at the 1978 Masters. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

Dubbed "Mr Fitness" for his reputed habit of doing 3,000 sit-ups every week, he went on to accumulate more than 100 victories worldwide. By 2000 -- when he was named South Africa's sportsman of the century -- Player had lifted his career take to 163 titles and become the only golfer to win the Grand Slam of all four majors on both the PGA and Senior tours.