Originally created 04/16/04

Golf fans turn to eBay for tournament items



Jim Phillips was heartbroken when his wife threw away his Masters Tournament shirt a few years ago.

The Olympia, Wash., resident picked it up when he attended the Tournament in 1989.

"It was pretty ratty looking," he said.

But the golf fan still wanted something with the yellow logo emblazoned on it.

So he turned to eBay.

The online marketplace has become the site for collectors hoping to find souvenirs from events they couldn't attend.

And the demand for those collectibles is turning normal fans into small-time businesses.

More than 800 pieces of Masters memorabilia, including items that historically could be purchased only at the course, were up for bid Wednesday.

"Some people can't get to the Masters, and they'd love to have the stuff," said Dwain Johnson, one of several people selling Masters souvenirs on eBay.

This year he spent almost $3,000 on souvenirs for resale.

He started putting Masters merchandise on the site three years ago, when a friend commented on his Masters watch. Now he has it down to a science.

"The window of opportunity is only open a couple of days, and then you have to wait till next year," he said, adding that demand dies shortly after the tournament before building again in February.

Mr. Johnson's eBay business has become so systematic, he takes orders on items even before acquiring the goods.

He tried expanding his inventory to souvenirs from the Westin 500 car race, but they didn't sell as well.

Another eBay seller, who would identify himself only by his user name, redray59, put close to three dozen items up for auction. He said he sold a few items last year but planned to sell more this year.

Sellers are getting good returns, too.

Tournament hats that sold for $21 on the course are going for as much as $65 online.

Mr. Phillips, the Olympia resident, said that he was fortunate enough to find a hat for $35.

"In general, as things happen in society, we will see that reflected in the number of listings and the number of bids related to that event," said Hani Durzy, an eBay spokesman.

Mr. Durzy said that although Derek Jeter jerseys are available year-round, there are more for sale when the Yankees win the World Series.

But baseball jerseys can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Masters merchandise can't - making it the perfect example of eBay reflecting society.

Augusta National Golf Club, the organizer of the tournament, restricts the sales of its officially licensed souvenirs, and club officials had little to say about the eBay effect.

"Our policy is that Masters merchandise can only be bought or sold here on the grounds," said Glenn Greenspan, the director of communications for the Masters Tournament.

Even if the tournament doesn't approve, Patrick Rice, an attorney with Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley, said there isn't much that can be done to prevent licensed merchandise from being resold in a secondary market.

"As long as they're not doing anything fraudulent, they're OK," he said.

Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227 or james.gallagher@augustachronicle.com.