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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Melfi

Mysterious ‘Thrift Store Green Jacket’ discovered in Toronto in 1994 sells for more than $139,000

The jacket must have been smuggled off, or worn by a former champion. That makes the discovery of the infamous piece of sporting memorabilia all the more rare

For 23 years, mystery has surrounded an authentic jacket from the Augusta National Golf Club known as the “Thrift Store Green Jacket” after selling for $5 in a Goodwill store in Toronto.

The name of the rightful owner of the blazer — which is not allowed off the grounds of the Georgia club except by the reigning Masters champion — had been snipped from the label. No one knows how the 1950s era jacket ended up in the racks of used sports jackets.

But the unnamed Canadian journalist who bought the jacket in 1994 knew how rare his find was.

So did British Golf International journalist Dominic Pedler. When he read about the sale months later, in the press room of the Augusta National on the morning the Masters, he resolved to track down the buyer of the coveted jacket with the gold buttons and trademark logo of a flag through the state of Georgia. Only members of the club and winners of the Masters can own the jacket.

“It took some time to locate the fortune finder and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse (he did); and several more months before I had a deal and a logistical plan to take safe possession of the plunder. But eventually there was the satisfaction of slipping it on to find that the estimated size 42 Regular could indeed have been made for me,” Pedler wrote in an article about his quest reprinted in Golf Today, titled The Jacket and I.

With his purchase, came a price. Pedler himself became the object of attention. A buzz and an insatiable thirst for mystery in the golf community began to engulf the blazer.

When at last it went up for auction on the weekend, the day before the championship round, its selling price of US$139,349 surprised even the auction house.

“We knew it had a cool story, that’s the exciting thing about the jacket,” said Ryan Carey, co-owner of Green Jacket Auctions. “If you wanted a Green Jacket, this is the one you want.”

Masters jackets can fetch up to US$20,000 and the auction house tried every year for the past decade to convince Pedler to sell. The answer until this past year was always no.

“… I do dust it off once a year to watch the Masters on TV while my wife rustles up a peach cobbler,” Pedler wrote. “The rest of the time it lives in a bank vault, along with my Henry Cotton scrapbook and the 1974 Daily Telegraph Junior Golf trophy of a certain N.A. Faldo.”

The Augusta Club, which verified its authenticity, began using the jackets in 1949. Tags on the jackets fashioned by Cullum’s tailoring in Augusta, Georgia, were used until 1957. That makes the 1950s-dated Thrift Store Green Jacket one of the first Masters blazers ever made.

Only one Canadian has won a Masters green jacket and he’s still wearing it. Mike Weir became the first Canadian to claim the honour in 2003.

“Someone cut out the tag to protect its identity,” said Carey. “Why would that happen? It doesn’t seem to add up.”

And now another mystery: who bought the Thrift Store Green Jacket?

Carey can’t say.

“I haven’t got permission from him yet,” he says, then allows a clue: “He is American.”

Originally published on The National Post.

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