"Check this out,” says Tom Stewart. “It’s my favorite piece in the shop. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
The sun is just up on a quiet winter morning at the Old Sport & Gallery on Chinquapin Road in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and the owner of perhaps the finest golf art gallery and collectibles shop in America is already doing his famous Irish door dance, spinning the tale of an item in his well-loved establishment.
The item is an extraordinary scale model of the iconic clubhouse of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews made from 37,000 meticulously hand-carved bricks by a retired NASA engineer and former Pinehurst resident named Mike Horstman.
The model’s price tag may be a stratospheric seventy-five grand but as with most things in Tom Stewart’s shop – including the genial proprietor himself – there’s no charge for the colorful backstory.
“Mike was a great guy, one of the early scientists who figured out how to send men to the moon using a computer barely stronger than an iPhone. After he moved here with his wife she told him, ‘Mike, you can’t start drinking until six o’clock so you better find a second hobby.’ So he took up making amazing models of famous clubhouses. He did Augusta National’s clubhouse followed by Pinehurst’s. They sold in no time. The R&A clubhouse here is Mike’s final work.”
Stewart’s early visitor eyes a gorgeous silver trophy cup standing on top of a display cabinet filled with rare golf books, sports figurines, Crosby Tournament decanters, brass Putter Boys, vintage photographs and Harvie Ward signature golf balls.
The proprietor’s face lights up. “Oh,” he declares, “you’ve got to see that!”
So down it comes – a sterling silver trophy cup from the Inverness Invitational Tournament staged between 1935 and 1952, complete with the inscribed names of the tournament’s winning teams, the likes of Walter Hagen and Ky Lafoon, Henry Picard and Johnny Revolta, Horton Smith and “Lighthorse” Harry Cooper and others.
“Please note … Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret. They won it four times.” This leads to the story of how such a unique artifact came his way from an aging private collector who placed his beloved golf artifacts in the hands of Stewart, hoping to find both a good new home and a fair price.
One learns this is a common circumstance throughout the rambling floors of the eccentric establishment that sits just a mashie-shot off the square in the Home of American Golf, Pinehurst’s own version of Charles Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop.
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