The green jacket awarded to 1959 Masters champ Art Wall Jr. is at the center of an ownership dispute between Augusta National Golf Club and a Florida man who paid more than $60,000 for the blazer at a recent auction.
This week Dallas judge Emily Tobolowsky ordered Heritage Auctions to freeze the sale of the jacket until ownership can be determined. Florida doctor Stephen Pyles bought the jacket at an auction last April for $61,452.55. But when he tried to sell the jacket through Heritage Auctions, Augusta National Golf Club filed a restraining order, claiming the club is the true owner of the jacket.
Jim James, Augusta’s senior director of club and hospitality operation, told reporters that the club discovered in June that four green jackets had disappeared. They belonged to Fuzzy Zoeller (1979), Gay Brewer (1967), George Archer (1969) and Wall (1959). James said several course employees stole the jackets and sold them to an auctioneer in Florida. While three jackets were tracked down and returned to August, Wall's remained missing.
"The green jacket to Augusta is the Statue of Liberty to New York or the Mona Lisa to the Louvre," James said.
According to James, until 2012 there was an unwritten agreement that players would leave their green jackets at the club. That changed in 2012, when Masters champion Bubba Watson was presented a formal letter saying he could not take his blazer.
Pyles has argued that several green jackets remain outside Augusta, and therefore he should be allowed to retain ownership.
Per Tobolowsky's ruling, Augusta will have to prove ownership at a trial on a later date.