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Thieves swipe U.S. Am trophy and old Hogan artifacts in smash-and-grab USGA heist

By Steve Elling | Senior Golf Columnist

Is there a black market for stolen golf memorabilia?

Cops near the U.S. Golf Association headquarters in suburban New Jersey are about to find out.

An overnight break-in at the USGA Museum netted thieves a couple of gold-plated artifacts that could have some serious worth -- assuming golf keepsakes have the same sort of cachet as stolen paintings or sculptures.

The two items stolen were the prestigious U.S. Amateur trophy that was used from 1926-1992 and a replica of the once-vaunted Hickok Belt awarded to Ben Hogan in 1953.

The U.S. Am trophy has some pretty notable fingerprints on it -- and not just those belonging to the thieves.

Winners during the span in which the trophy was used include Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Craig Stadler, Jerry Pate, Mark O'Meara, John Cook, Hal Sutton, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard.


The Hickok Belt award, given annually in the middle of the 20th Century to the top athlete in the country, was acquired from the Hogan estate in 1998 and has been displayed in the USGA museum since 1999. It was one of most notable awards an athlete could win in years past.

Thieves smashed a window and grabbed the items as the alarm sounded and police responded.

“We don't talk about our security measures and protocols,” USGA spokesman Joe Goode said Wednesday. “Our system did operate as designed and the theft could have been a lot worse, otherwise.”

In a weird twist, Goode said the Hickok Belt is actually a replica of the original that was swiped in a theft at Colonial Country Club outside Dallas several years ago.

A list of past Hickok winners includes many of the greatest sports figures of the past decade, including golfers Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino.

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