One of the most coveted rarities in the sport1939 Masters Championship Gold Medal Presented to Ralph Guldahl. Ralph Guldahl (1911-1987) was the best golfer in the world from 1936 through 1939. During that time, he won three Western Opens (1936, 1937, 1938) two United States Opens (1937, 1938), and one Masters (1939 - after having finished second in both 1937 and 1938). The young Texas native had amassed a record that surpassed Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead up to that point. However, for reasons unknown, Guldahl flamed out like a shooting star. His game left him beginning in 1940, and for all practical purposes he left the game after 1941, only playing sporadically in tour events thereafter. Some say that he lost his swing when he analyzed his action in writing his 1939 golf instruction book called "Groove Your Golf." The more likely explanation is that Guldahl's heart was not devoted to playing tournament golf. He was a family man who wanted to stay at home. In this regard, it should be pointed out that in those days it was difficult to earn a living on the PGA Tour unless you were at the very top of the game. Guldahl probably didn't think the reward was worth the effort. In any case, Guldahl's brilliance did earn him a well-deserved induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.
Heritage Auctions has sold some of the finest Championship golf medals over the past two years, including British Open Gold Medals and PGA Championship Gold Medals. However, Guldahl's 1939 Masters Gold Medal has to be considered equal to or better than those fine offerings. There's a very good reason why the collecting hobby is so rarely blessed with an opportunity at ownership. First of all, there is a great deal of uncertainty over the kinds of awards that were given out in the early years of the Masters Tournament. Even the official Masters website cannot be considered authoritative. Research by our best consultants indicates that no medals were awarded at all until 1951, at which time the winner began receiving a Gold Medal and the runner-up a silver medal. At that time, prior winners were permitted to buy Gold Medals to commemorate their past achievements. Not all of the champions were willing to foot the bill for a Gold Medal. Over the years, the design of the Masters Gold Medal has changed only once. The later version has a sharper strike and edge than the original version and the driveway in front of the clubhouse appears prominently in the later version but not in the earlier version.
Guldahl's 1939 Masters Gold Medal is the later version. This makes sense because Guldahl stopped playing in the Masters after 1948 and didn't play again until 1964 when he was in his fifties (just showing up as a past champion in a ceremonial capacity). So he would not have been present to purchase one of the early versions or like some of the past champions, and he may have chosen not to purchase one even if he was given the chance because he already had received a Winner's Plaque for his 1939 victory. That plaque is also being offered as a separate lot in this auction. Guldahl probably received his Gold Medal at a later time when the Masters Tournament was a big money-maker for the club, and he probably didn't have to pay for it by that time.
Since the Masters is the youngest (but perhaps the most coveted) of the four Major Championships, and because the awarding of gold championship medals for the years prior to 1951 cannot be fully ascertained, and because most of the winners are major (rich) stars who have either retained their medals or donated them to museums (Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Snead, Nelson, Woods, etc.), there is really no opportunity for a collector to acquire a Masters Championship Gold Medal. It is said that Craig Wood's 1941 Masters Gold Medal was sold privately for over $100,000 about a decade ago. Certainly Ralph Guldahl's Gold Medal is in the same ballpark.
This medal measures 1.75" in diameter and weighs 1.7 ounces. Gold content marked on side of medal is ten karats. As the photos clearly show, the detail is outstanding and the condition is Near Mint. The front of the medal depicts the famous clubhouse along with the driveway surrounding the Founders Circle. The perimeter reads, "Augusta National Golf Club." The back of the medal has the familiar Augusta National logo (map of the USA with the flag coming out of the State of Georgia), and it reads, "Masters Tournament" and "Ralph Guldahl 1939." This offering may be a collector's only chance to ever own a Masters Championship Gold Medal. Letter of provenance from Ralph Guldahl, Jr.
1939 Masters Championship Gold Medal Presented to Ralph Guldahl.
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