PGA Tour pro Ben Crenshaw is one of the best-known names in golf. Some remember him as the two-time Masters champion, others as a United States Ryder Cup player and captain. He’s also been a golf commentator and a respected course architect. Those involved with golf memorabilia may also be aware of Crenshaw’s extensive collection.
Crenshaw was an All-American golfer at the University of Texas before turning pro in 1973. He won regularly on the PGA Tour, but he was equally known for near-misses in the majors until 1984, when a 60-foot birdie putt during his final round sparked Crenshaw to victory. In 1995, just days after his long-time coach Harvey Penick died, Crenshaw gained his second Masters triumph. He later served as a TV golf analyst and course architect. His firm, Coore & Crenshaw, has designed and built courses literally from coast to coast: from Hawaii to Massachusetts.
Crenshaw is a member of the Golf Collectors’ Society, a nonprofit organization formed in 1970 and devoted to “preserving the treasures and traditions of the game of golf.” His personal collection includes miniature golf clubs as well as artwork, such as golf paintings and sculpture. The largest part of his collection, however, is his library of golf books, including a number of rare editions. In the forward he wrote for the “Encyclopedia of Golf Collectibles” in 1984, Crenshaw stated that he owned about 400 golf books. By 2012 his book collection had doubled to around 800.
History and Tradition
When speaking about golf collecting, Crenshaw emphasizes the game’s long history of more than 500 years. In 1984 he wrote that golf is “the traditionalist’s game” and said that golf collectibles, including “art, books, clubs and other equipment, silver and pottery, reflect a sincere devotion to their subject.” By reading his many golf books, Crenshaw added, he developed a better understanding for the game. Since that time, his collection of golf books and artwork have inspired his architectural work and contributed to the courses he’s helped design and create.
Crenshaw is often described as the best-known or most famous member of the Golf Collectors’ Society. That fame has motivated many to present him with golf memorabilia as gifts, thereby expanding his collection. A “New York Times” article noted that when he played the British Open he often received so many items -- including books, magazines, newspaper clippings, player trading cards and other materials -- that he had to “scurry about for cartons and crates” so he could ship the loot to his Texas home.