Originally created 04/10/00

Two brothers collect pros' autographs



Five hours before Vijay Singh sank a birdie putt on Augusta National Golf Club's 18th hole and won the Masters Tournament, he met Reed and Taylor Burton.

And like 111 professional golfers before him, Mr. Singh just couldn't way no. The brothers got the Fijian to autograph a golf ball.

"We have two display cases, but we've run out of space," said Reed, 18, a senior at Augusta Preparatory Day School. "We need to get a third huge one."

The Burtons' quest began in 1994 with a handful of used balls from David Frost. Now, they have 112, ranging from Tommy Aaron to Fuzzy Zoeller, including 20 Masters champions.

"It was fun, and we just continued to do that," Reed said. "I'm just glad we started before eBay. It's become a lot harder (to get autographs)."

This year, the brothers got 22. They spent part of each tournament day hanging around the practice area to catch professional golfers.

"We never asked anyone else to get them for us," Reed said. "We went up to all the players ourselves."

And the Burtons plan to keep their collection, which has expanded to gloves, tournament guide books and some of Taylor's sketches. The brothers also have a glove signed by Tiger Woods.

"Tiger does not sign balls, but I have a ball with his name embossed on it in the rack," Taylor said.

The brothers have agreed on how to split the collection. Taylor gets the balls and most of the other items; Reed gets the books.

"I'd feel weird keeping them all for me, because Reed has helped with a lot of them," said Taylor, 16, who is a junior at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

The trade is pretty even: Reed gets Byron Nelson and Taylor gets Gene Sarazen and Ray Floyd.

"I get a book with Payne Stewart in it," Reed said. "He doesn't even have a Payne."

The Sarazen signature is on a scorecard from last year.

"I was like, `We may not have another chance,' and he died five weeks later," Taylor said. "We were both in tears when he signed it."

"To have a man who won his first major (tournament) before my grandparents were born -- that's pretty astounding," said Reed, an aspiring golf writer who once shot a hole-in-one on the third hole at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass course.

But he's never played at Augusta National.

"I just feel fortunate enough to be here and just see it," he said.

This might be the last Masters autograph hunt for the Burtons. Reed will head for Fordham University in New York this fall.

"If Reed is not going to be back, what's the point?" Taylor asked. "We've always done this together."

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.