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Golfers Bid for Valderrama Owner’s $3.1 Million of Memorabilia

"The Golf Course, North Berwick" by John Lavery. The painting is included in the collection of golf memorabilia being sold by Jaime Ortiz-Patino at Christie's International in London on May 30. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2012 via Bloomberg.

One of the world’s best-known collections of golfing memorabilia is to be sold at a London auction valued at 2 million pounds ($3.1 million).

Bolivian businessman Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the owner of the Valderrama Golf Club in Spain, amassed the material over 25 years. The 400 lots will be sold by Christie’s International on May 30, the U.K.-based auction house said in an e-mail today.

Ortiz-Patino, born in Paris in 1930, is the grandson of the Bolivian industrialist Simon Patino, known as the king of tin. He acquired the Robert Trent Jones-designed course at Sotogrande, Andalucia, in 1984. He renamed it Valderrama and put his collection in its museum. The course was the venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup tournament.

“It’s going to be quite a sale,” Kenley Matheny, director of the Florida-based memorabilia specialists The Golf Auction, LLC, said in an interview. “Collections don’t get much better than this.”

Items range from a 17th-century iron club owned by a founding member of the Old Course, St. Andrews, estimated at as much as 100,000 pounds, to a 1934 program for the inaugural Masters at the Augusta National, priced as much as 10,000 pounds.

The market for golfing memorabilia has cooled since the late 1980s and 1990s, when prices for rarities were pushed up by competition between Ortiz-Patino and Japanese collectors.

A putter owned by the Royal Perth Golfing Society made its way to Valderrama after selling at Christie’s, Glasgow, for 95,000 pounds in 1998. It will be re-offered in May with an estimate of 70,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds.

Chinese Demand

“It’s not as crazy as it was when a lot of Japanese were buying,” Matheny said. “There has been a shift in taste away from hickory clubs to more modern winners’ medals and trophies. There are a lot of golf courses being built in China and there’s a definite uptick in demand from that region. They like to put a few old things with a wow factor in the club house.”

The most highly valued lot is the early 1920s John Lavery painting “The Golf Course, North Berwick.” Estimated at 200,000 pounds to 300,000 pounds, this sold at the same London auction room for 456,000 pounds in 2005.

A wooden putter used by Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, who between them won eight Open Championships in the mid-19th century, is estimated to sell for as much as 70,000 pounds, while a selection of the “Featherie” golf balls they would have used -- made out of compacted goose feathers stuffed into cowhide -- may fetch as much as 20,000 pounds each.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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