The clubs Arnold Palmer used in the US Open’s greatest comeback are just some of the unlikely treasures Steve Carroll discovered in a Pebble Beach store
The grooves are worn. The pattern is in little circles around the centre of the club face. It’s the golfing fingerprint of a player of immense talent.
Is that dirt on the heel, or is it rust? Thoughts of when they were last in battle, when they struck a shot that really mattered, flood the memory.
They’re remarkable for being precisely the opposite and yet I, and I’m sure everyone else lucky enough to cast their gaze through the plate glass cabinet, can’t help but stare in awe.
If you turfed them out of your garage, you probably wouldn’t give them a second look. But it’s tricky to put a price on these.
Because they are the clubs that were wielded to produce the biggest comeback in US Open history.
There are treasures wherever the vision flits in Golf Links To The Past, the memorabilia store that lines the small row of shops flanking the practice putting green at Pebble Beach.
Golf balls dating back to the dawn of the game, old hickory clubs in racks and patches from long forgotten US Ryder Cup teams flood the small store.
They are offset by walls adorned with framed pictures of Masters badges, signed portraits of legends and row after row of books and programmes.
But your gaze returns – time and time again – to the display and the irons Arnold Palmer used to win the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills.
The King actually won 14 tournaments with the clubs, including the Open at Royal Birkdale the following year, where he famously swiped a 6-iron out of a bush on the 15th.
It was the success in California, though, where Palmer won his only national championship after a front nine birdie blitz that pulled him from seven shots back to victory, that make the ‘Dyna-Powered’ blades incomparable.
The story goes that he gave them away – to former PGA president Joe Black as compensation for destroying his driver.
When Black, who only used the precious clubs on one occasion, decided as an octogenarian to clear out some of his clutter, Kip Opgrand, Golf Links To The Past’s general manager, stepped in two years ago.
And so in this display they’ve remained ever since, with an asking price passing more than a quarter of a million dollars, and a plan to find them the most fitting of homes.
“That’s a pretty special set of clubs,” Opgrand says in rather understated fashion. “You can see what some of his (Palmer’s) other clubs go for – like a putter he used or a driver.
“They’ve come up at auction and we can kind of calculate what they’ve sold for and factor in what we’ve bought things for and put a cost on.
“They need to be in Cherry Hills and I have been talking with them. They know we have them and it would be great to have them there. It would be one of those situations where you found the right home for them.”
Finding the right home is important for Opgrand, a former golf pro who was a collector himself before being coaxed from Scottsdale to run this part shop/part museum 19 years ago.
This year’s US Open poster – an already iconic piece of art painted by Lee Wybranski and which has been doing swift sales in the merchandise tent – is an obvious example.
“I had the original piece of art in the shop three weeks before Open,” he adds. “I knew it was going to sell right away because it’s a great poster. The original art went to someone who lives here in Carmel.
“So I know where it is. It’s home and it is in good hands. It’s not that Oklahoma doesn’t have a US Open but it stayed at Pebble Beach.”
And it’s price? Well, Wybranski’s original painting of last year’s poster at Shinnecock Hills is on the wall at $20,000. Do the maths.
You spend a few minutes in this store when you can really spend all day. Wherever you turn, there is something special.
There’s a set of leatherbound Ryder Cup books – a signature history – housing the autographs of 320 competitors along with artefacts from 39 tournaments up to 2012. It’s retailing at $250,000.
There’s a framed display of Masters badges, from every tournament since 1961. There are cheques signed by Ben Hogan, an autographed letter from Bobby Jones.
It’s like being in the British Golf Museum, except everything here has its price – and can be taken away with the swipe of a credit card.
“I’ve got some original artwork from Charles Lees, who painted the Grand Match – probably the most iconic golf painting from St Andrews – where they are all standing over the golf ball,” Obgrand continues.
“He painted that in 1847 and we have an original watercolour called ‘The Golfers’ which he painted in 1848.
“To have an original painting – that’s one of things that you walk into The Louvre for and you look at who painted it, when it was painted and what’s the price.
“That’s one of those pieces that belongs to The Louvre.”
Except it can be yours. For $300,000.
I ask Obgrand if it’s difficult to let go when a piece is sold. It’s certainly difficult as a visitor to leave this historical paradise.
But the fun for him is as much the discovery as the coveting. It’s always fun to set your eyes on something new and exciting.
“It walks in the front door. It comes up at auction and I know that a customer wants this piece and I can find pieces. I know my customers.
“You buy things and sometimes they don’t sell right away. Sometimes you make the mistake of falling in love with it and then holding on to it for a while but it will find a home sooner or later.”