1939 Masters Tournament Winner's Plaque Presented to Ralph Guldahl....
The early history of the awards that were given to Masters Champions is not entirely clear. Although it is certain that the awarding of the Green Jacket to the Champion began in 1949 and that the awarding of the miniature Silver Clubhouse began in 1993, some researchers report that in the early years the winners received a plaque as the official "trophy." The best evidence shows that the winners were given the Championship Plaque starting in 1942. There are two versions of this plaque. This offering is the earlier version which was awarded from 1942 until at least 1960. A later version probably first appeared in the early 1960's.
The 2006 book "When War Played Through: Golf During World War II" by John Strege describes a conversation between Byron Nelson and Clifford Roberts that took place during Masters week in 1942, a tournament that Nelson would win in a playoff over Ben Hogan. The following excerpt from the book nails down the origins of Guldahl's plaque:
O.B. Keeler saw Nelson's victory as possibly preordained. At the beginning of the week, a package had arrived at the club at about the same time Nelson did. The package contained plaques, individually wrapped, each with a name and a year etched onto it. The plaques were to be awarded to each of the past Masters champions.
"Open it up," Clifford Roberts said to Nelson.
"Draw one," Roberts said.
Nelson selected one, unwrapped it, and saw that it had been emblazoned with the name Byron Nelson and the year 1937, representing his Masters victory five years earlier.
"It's an omen," Roberts said elatedly. "If there's anything in hunches, you're going to win this tournament."
Roberts noted that were Nelson to win, the club would only have to add 1942 to the plaque, absolving it from having to spend money on another one.
"I'll show you," Roberts said. "Draw another one."
Nelson unwrapped a second plaque. The name on it was Horton Smith, under which the years 1934 and 1936 were etched.
"See?" Roberts said. "You can't miss. It's your tournament."
Arnold Palmer was awarded a plaque identical to Guldahl's to commemorate his 1958 and 1960 Masters victories. Palmer's plaque can be viewed in the "Trophy Room" section of his official website. What is most significant about the 1939 Guldahl Plaque is that it can be dated to the initial batch of official Masters plaques. At this time, it appears that no Masters award dates earlier than this one because all of the medals date to 1951 regardless of the printed Championship date, and all of the Green Jackets date from 1949 forward. There were only seven original plaques issued in 1942, and this is one of them.
The stained mahogany based plaque measures 7.5x9.5", holding a 6x8" riveted silver plate with raised fourteen karat gold lettering that reads "Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Won By Ralph Guldahl 1939." Weight is twenty-six ounces. Original hanging bracket and chain on reverse. Plaque exhibits some surface wear from storage, visible in our catalog imagery, but still presents well. Included is an 8x10" black and white photograph (modern print) of Arnold Palmer receiving his similar 1958 Masters plaque from Bobby Jones.
Much like Guldahl's 1939 Gold Championship Medal (being offered in this auction as a separate lot), this Championship plaque may represent the only opportunity a collector will ever have to own what is, by definition, a Masters Trophy. Letter of provenance from Ralph Guldahl, Jr.
1939 Masters Tournament Winner's Plaque Presented to Ralph Guldahl.
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