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Masters Host Says Green Jacket Was Stolen

DALLAS (CN) - Augusta National Golf Club sued a Texas auction house, to stop it from selling the green jacket allegedly stolen from Art Wall after he won the 1959 Masters golf tournament.

Augusta National sued Heritage Auctions in Dallas County Court, to stop the auction set for Feb. 23.

The golf club said it learned in April 2012 that Wall's green jacket had been stolen and sold by another, unnamed auction house, which refused to identify the purchaser or the source of the jacket.

Wall won the 1959 Masters - and $15,000 - by shooting a last-day 66, for a 284. He defeated Cary Middlecoff by 1 stroke and Arnold Palmer by 2.

Augusta National Inc. says in its complaint: "Through an exhaustive inquiry, ANI determined that three employees were responsible for not only the theft of the jacket, but also for the theft of three other jackets and a number of other items that collectors might value in and around the grounds of Augusta National.

"Fortunately, ANI has since recovered the other three jackets. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the jacket awarded to Mr. Wall remained a mystery until it appeared in defendant Heritage's auction catalogue and on its website in advance of the auction."

Masters champions have been awarded a green jacket since 1949. The Masters is the first of four major PGA tournaments each year, and the only one always held on the same course.

"The rules of the Masters Tournament and of ANI provide that the green jacket presented to the annual Masters champion may not be removed from ANI's grounds except during the first year following its presentation," the complaint states. "Thereafter, it must be stored on ANI premises for use only on the grounds and during the annual tournament."

Augusta National says that each green jacket is owned by the club and each champion enjoys possessory rights only on its premises.

It claims that Heritage's own catalog acknowledged that Augusta's rules require that green jackets "are never to leave the Augusta grounds."

"Heritage never contacted ANI concerning the Wall green jacket being an 'exception' to those rules and represented in its catalog," the complaint states. "In fact, there is no such exception."

(This is the second time in 9 months that Heritage has been accused of selling stolen high-profile items. In May 2012, Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia sued the auction house for return of a nearly complete fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, which sold for $1.1 million. A federal judge in New York last week entered a default judgment for the United States, clearing the way for the dinosaur to be returned to Mongolia.)

In the case of the green jacket, Augusta National seeks a writ of sequestration and temporary restraining order for violations of the Texas Theft Liability Act and conversion.

It is represented by Christopher Groves with Miller Egan in Dallas.

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