Golf collection set to fetch $3.2 mln at Christie's

LONDON Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:26am EST

LONDON Feb 24 (Reuters) - The global economy may be in the rough, but bidders are expected to chip in up to 20,000 pounds ($31,000) to buy an old golf ball at a major sale of golf memorabilia at Christie's in May.

The auction of the collection of Bolivian tin baron Jaime Ortiz-Patino, who acquired the famous Valderrama Golf Club in Spain in 1984, is expected to fetch more than two million pounds in London on May 30.

The most valuable item in the collection, billed as the world's most important of its kind, is expected to be a painting of the Scottish golf course of North Berwick by John Lavery dating from the 1920s, expected to fetch 200-300,000 pounds.

Among the golf clubs is the Morris Putter, a 19th century club used by the fabled father-son duo of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, who between them won eight Open Championships.

The younger Morris was the Tiger Woods of his time, and, according to Christie's, is still the youngest player to have won a major at 17 years old in 1868. By the time he won the competition for the fourth time he was just 21 years old.

The putter is valued at 40-70,000 pounds, well shy of the 80-120,000 pound estimate for a late 17th or early 18th century square-toe iron, one of only 20 of its kind known to exist.

Also on offer is a wide range of "Featherie" golf balls which began to replace wooden balls in the early 1600s.

The cowhide and goose feather balls were so expensive that players would keep them for up to six months. The prices at auction are expected to range from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds. (Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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