TROPHY TALES : Major prizes endure fire, dents—and the occasional pub crawl – actual trophies usually not given to winners – Brief Article

John Hawkins

When all four major-championship trophies settled in Tiger Woods’ living room this spring, the issue of whether he had won a Grand Slam became a moot point. No player in the game’s history has compiled a more impressive array of hardware, though it should be noted that Woods never received the 132-pound, sterling-silver Masters trophy on display in the Augusta National clubhouse.

Like one of Clifford Roberts’ best-kept secrets, it never leaves the grounds. Woods’ U.S. Open cup? It’s not a fake, but it is a second cousin of the original, which was lost in a fire 55 years ago and replaced by a similar trophy, which Tiger didn’t get, either. The British Open’s claret jug? Sorry, but after hoisting the real thing at St. Andrews, Woods was presented with a twin, which he keeps for a year. Even the Wanamaker Trophy comes with an asterisk–Woods was given a scaled-down copy of the 27-pound, 28-inch chalice that resides at PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Grand Slam or Grand Scam? “If you want a major-championship trophy, you’ve got to buy one,” says 1996 British Open champ Tom Lehman, “and they’re not cheap. It’s not like they give you one to keep for the rest of your life.”

This, as Woods can tell you, is only half true. All four major championships offer the winners downsized replicas, three of which (the Masters, British Open and PGA) now come free of charge. John Daly says he paid about $6,000 for his copy of the claret jug, which had been reproduced at 70 percent. Asked if he has sipped an occasional libation from golf’s most hallowed drinking utensil, Daly replies, “Nah. It’s so small, you can’t get anything into it, hardly.”

Nick Price (1994) and Justin Leonard (1997) took advantage of the R&A’s decision last year to make 90 percent replicas and had their trophies enlarged. The funny thing is, the USGA did the same thing a few years earlier, increasing the dimensions of its replica to 75 percent from 60, but it decided not to let past champions duplicate their duplication.

“I asked if I could get my first one done over, and they said no,” says Lee Janzen (1993, 1998). “They commission some guy [in England, of all places] to do it, and he only makes one a year. I guess they don’t want too many floating around.”

Bad things happen to good trophies

It’s probably a good thing the real trophies stay put, for as long as men have won major championships, they’ve bogeyed the paperweights. In 1898, U.S. Open champ Fred Herd, a renowned boozer, was asked to leave a deposit on the championship cup, because USGA officials were afraid he’d hock it. In November 1925, back when the U.S. Amateur was an “official” major, the trophy was destroyed in a fire at East Lake Golf Club while held by none other than Bobby Jones.

Three years later, Walter Hagen’s streak of four consecutive PGA Championship victories ended in a loss to Leo Diegel. Asked to return the Wanamaker Trophy, Hagen, whose ideal foursome paired him with scotch, vodka and bourbon, announced he’d left the massive Wanamaker with a New York taxi-cab driver after his 1926 triumph. The trophy finally was recovered in 1930 in a Detroit warehouse owned by the Walter Hagen Golf Company. Apparently the largest beverage containers were the ones with which Sir Walter had the most difficulty parting.

In September 1946, the U.S. Open trophy melted in another clubhouse fire, this time at Tam O’Shanter Country Club. Lloyd Mangrum, at the time Tam O’Shanter’s head professional, had presented the championship cup to club owner George May. The USGA quickly ordered a replacement that was given to the U.S. Open champion until 1986, at which point it was retired. These days, only the duplicate is awarded to the winner.

After Tom Watson’s victory in the 1982 British Open, he was given the real claret jug (made in 1873) by mistake. So what happens? “I was making a swing in the house one day, bumped it, and it fell to the floor,” Watson says. “The fall bent the throat of the jug. We have a silversmith in Kansas City, but I wanted to see if I could do something with it. I took the trophy downstairs, got some felt and a pair of vice grips, and bent the silver back in place. It didn’t crimp or crease. Nobody knew the difference.”

Lehman’s daughter, Holly, did her best to provide the backup with some distinguishing characteristics. “She decided to play dolls with the claret jug and a couple of my Ryder Cup trophies,” Dad says. “When I got home one evening, the claret jug was bent about 45 degrees at the base. I had to take it to a jeweler to straighten it out.”

Speaking of benders, it was during the much-publicized midnight pub crawl of Alissa Herron that the claret jug finally received its 15 minutes of fame. After a dinner for his charity golf tournament in Minneapolis in June 1997, Lehman left the trophy in the hands of Herron, an employee at his brother’s sports-management firm whose own brother, Tim, plays on the PGA Tour.

Alissa took the jug bar-hopping, at least until the manager of one tavern called police to report it stolen. At 1 a.m., the cops called Lehman, who assured them the jug was in capable hands. “I’m finally getting over it,” Alissa says four years later. “Seriously, it was totally innocent, and it turned into something totally hysterical.”

Two years later, Alissa claimed her own national championship–the 1999 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. It’s one trophy Woods will have a hard time winning. “A huge bowl,” Alissa calls it. “You could fit a lot of popcorn in it.” Stories, too.

COPYRIGHT 2001 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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