Fate of Byron Nelson’s green jacket remains uncertain as court dismisses case

January 25, 2019

The fate of one of Byron Nelson’s Masters green jackets remains uncertain as a Georgia judge dismissed a case between Augusta National and Green Jacket Auctions earlier this month.

The Southern District of Georgia dismissed the contentious, 17-month-long case without prejudice on Jan. 16 after a joint stipulation was signed on behalf of the golf club, the auction house and Englishman Gregory Waunford-Brown, who claims ownership of the Nelson jacket.

This means the Nelson jacket will, for now at least, remain in the possession of Waunford-Brown who, according to court documents, acquired the jacket privately through Green Jacket Auctions in 2012.

The case, which dates to Aug. 14, 2017, arose when Augusta National won a preliminary injunction, halting Green Jacket Auction’s attempt to sell three green jackets, along with other ANGC-related goods, including silverware and a belt buckle. In less than two weeks, bidding for the Nelson jacket — which was issued to the two-time Masters winner in 1966 and is believed to be one of five green jackets he had in his lifetime — had exceeded $110,000. The jacket’s estimated value, according to the auction house, was $250,000 or more.

While the golf club initially argued that all the items in question were either stolen or counterfeit, the court ordered that only one of the jackets, the silverware and a belt buckle be returned.

The case extended through 2018, with the club alleging that the jacket must be stolen, given it was in the club’s possession during a physical inventory check in 2009.

“Augusta National came in very heavy handed,” Ryan Carey, co-founder of GJA, told GOLF.com in March. “Since then, we have had some positive discussions, so I am hopeful for a resolution in the near future for both sides. It’s very important to us…I’m not trying to be David vs. Goliath. But we’re also not somebody who just rolls over because somebody is being a bully. That’s not how we do business. It is what it is. I hope both sides can come to an understanding and agreement.”

Augusta National declined to comment for this story. Waunford-Brown did not respond to multiple inquiries from GOLF.com.

green jacket
A green jacket is one of the most recognizable awards in golf.

One of the sticking points in the case was whether a Georgia court could exert jurisdiction over Waunford-Brown. Not only does he live in London, but, according to court documents, the transfer of ownership of the jacket occurred in New Jersey, where Green Jacket Auctions consigns its auction items. Multiple attempts by Augusta National to convince the court that it could exert jurisdiction were dismissed, once in July and once in September.

On Jan. 8, Augusta National was granted one week to file a third amended complaint, this time with requisite information to exercise jurisdiction over Waunford-Brown. A day later all parties signed the joint dismissal, and on Jan. 16 the judge officially dismissed the case without prejudice.

The memorabilia dispute wasn’t Augusta National’s only beef with Green Jacket Auctions.

The club also took legal issue with the name of the auction house, claiming trademark infringement. In a separate suit that was also dismissed earlier this month, Augusta National argued that Carey acted in full knowledge of the club’s various trademarks when he and his partner Bob Zafian created the company and filed to own the domain GreenJacketAuctions.com in 2006, even though Augusta National didn’t trademark “Green Jacket” until 2010.

Augusta National claimed in the suit that Green Jacket Auction’s business was damaging the reputation of the club’s trademarks.

Green Jacket Auctions recently added a banner to its website that reads: “We will be rebranding soon! Please be on the lookout for our new name and website address in the coming year.”