By: Jonathan Wall Nov 2, 2022
With a swing of the bat, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run in the left field courts, surpassing Roger Maris for the most by an American League player in a season. On the receiving end of Judge’s 100-mile shot to the moon was Cory Youmans, who managed to secure the historic ball in his glove. Youmans knew what he had on his hands when he was escorted out of the stadium by stadium security: a potential financial gain of more than $3 million.
Unlike Youmans, Bob Gustin had no idea how significant the golf ball Tiger Woods tossed into the crowd in 1996 would be. One as a pro on the par-3 14th hole. As Woods went for the ball, a group of fans behind from the green, including Gustin and his brother-in-law David Beck, asked the 15-time major winner to throw the ball to them.
The forest obliges. The ball first bounced off Beck’s hand and landed in Gustin’s lap, capping off a memorable day of the tournament. But he didn’t stop there. Eventually, with the backing of tournament director Tom Strong, Woods signed the hole-in-one ball for Gustin as well.
For the past 26 years, the ball has been one of Gustin’s most prized golf items. But with collectibles on the rise, Gustin hopes to capitalize on the importance by auctioning them off through Heritage Auctions. While a golf ball used by Woods is special in itself, the importance of that particular ball cannot be underestimated.
“It’s hard to equate the importance of this ball with any other sport,” said Chris Nerat, director of sports broadcasts for Heritage Auctions. “It’s more than someone hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown in their first game because those things, while extremely difficult and impressive, happen much more often than a hole-in-one. Then you have to add that Tiger Woods came under enormous pressure. He had been on television so much when he was a kid and won so much as an amateur that anyone who knew anything about golf knew exactly who he was. This wasn’t like a first-round pick that should become a great player. He has been called a must-see superstar. Maybe you could compare that to LeBron James walking out of school with unshakable expectations and scoring 50 points in his debut or something. But there are not many parallels that can be drawn.
Since the ball is expected to cost more than $50,000, Gustin already knows what to do with the proceeds: He plans to split the sale with his brother-in-law, who deflected the ball into his lap.
“Whatever it is, I share it with my brother-in-law, David,” Gustin said. “He’s the one who yelled, ‘Throw him over here!’ He is the one he was distracted from before he got to me. We both had a part in me getting that ball, so we’ll both enjoy it when it’s for someone else.”
Several used Woods items have sold for record numbers in recent years. Gustin expects a similar outcome in his favor.
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Jonathan Wall is Senior Equipment Editor for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before joining the team in late 2018, he spent 6 years covering teams for the PGA Tour.