Apr 14

Golf Trophies and a Tale of Two Artists

Following the week of “the tournament  that must not be named,” I’ve begun to wonder what it is that PGA tournament victors really win. Of course, they win the purse, but we never get to see that, and it’s presumably gone before very long, in one direction or another. Actually, I wouldn’t want to see it, because I can’t draw any vicarious benefit from it. The symbols of these four day events, though, can be very exciting, regardless, it seems, of what some of them actually are. For example, there’s nothing in my closet that would go with a green jacket. They’d have to be guessing at my size but I’d kill to have one by winning…that…tournament. As it turns out, there’s also a lovely, some would say a “_ _ _ _ _ _piece” of a trophy for winning down in that southern state. I wouldn’t mind that in my trophy case, either…if I had one. Incidentally, this tournament I promised not to mention for a while has a par 3 trophy as well.

What do the other majors offer in terms of behind glass hardware, something that one can show off to guests? Well, the most famous trophy in the sport is, I’m told, the Claret Jug, presented to the winner of the Open in Great Britain. Apparently, you get to keep it if you win three times in a row, and in the late 1800s, Tom Morris did just that. He took the first cup home with his name on it three times. A new cup was made for the tournament, but Morris came back to win it again for his fourth straight.

The U.S. Open trophy is called just that. A plain Jane sort of trophy, there’s still no mistaking what you’ve just done to get it, and you’ve done it over the best there are, anywhere. It will look just fine sitting in your den – just fine.

The Wanamaker Trophy is presented to the annual winner of the PGA tournament, and is probably the heaviest thing the winner has to picked up all week, even if he has children in school at the time. Like the U.S. Open trophy, it is a little old-school, albeit with a touch more flair, but that’s all right in this sport. However, like the U.S. Open trophy, the names that they’ve scratched into the thing for the years before yours will make you feel faint.

Not all of the interesting prizes are to be found at the majors, though. As an example, the RBC Heritage, a tournament that was just saved by the passionate pleas of players, which were answered by new sponsorship, is being played this week. Carl Petterson, Boo Weekely and Zach Johnson are all in the hunt.

The heritage also offers a jacket, and there’s nothing in my closet to go with that, either. It’s a tartan jacket, but ensemble isn’t the point.  It’s the event that stands behind it. Far more important is the oil portrait painted for the winner by one of America’s finest artists, who replaced another one from past years.

I would encourage readers to visit an excellent article by David Lauderdale, who has profiled the masterful Coby Whitmore, illustrator for Saturday Evening Post and colleague of Norman Rockwell in what is called the Westport School of Illustration. Equal time has been given to the present artist, West Fraser, admirer and friend of Whitmore, and nephew of the tournament’s earliest cheerleader, Charles Fraser. The elder Fraser’s passion led bagpipe processionals to the 18th green, and hickory stick drives into the Calibogue with the firing of a cannon. Fraser grew up in Hilton Head, and is a favored son. Of interest, incidentally, is that Whitmore’s last painting was of winner Davis Love, whose father played in the first Heritage.

And that’s only the men, the “where’s the peanut butter?” half of the golf world. This week, I’m going to dig into what the LPGA has devised to reward its winners. I can only imagine what that collective imagination has come up with.


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