Lawsuit between Augusta National, auction company over for now

A green jacket similar to this one was at the heart of a lawsuit involving Augusta National Golf Club and an auction company. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Augusta National Golf Club and the auction company set to sell three of the club's iconic green jackets in 2017 have agreed to drop their legal battle.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall signed an order Jan. 16 that closes the federal lawsuit filed by Augusta National in 2017 against Green Jacket Auctions Inc. The club where the Masters Tournament takes place every spring was granted a temporary injunction in 2017 that prevented the company from continuing an auction to sell three green jackets, one worn by Masters champion Byron Nelson in 1966. Nelson won the Masters in 1937 and 1942.

The Nelson jacket, as attorneys have described it in thousands of pages of legal documents filed in the case, was the cause for the longest court battle. Augusta National contended the Nelson jacket was at the club during a 2009 inventory so it must have been stolen. The club discovered in 2012 that two employees had stolen several green jackets, according to court documents.

But the Nelson jacket was in the possession of Greg Waunford-Brown of London. Augusta National's attorneys failed in two attempts to convince the federal judge that he could assert jurisdiction over Waunford-Brown, who, according to the club's legal documents, has been to the Masters and played golf at the club. He also bought more than $180,000 in Augusta National merchandise and memorabilia during visits, according to court documents.

While Augusta National was unable to get the Nelson jacket back, another green jacket owned by club member John R. Butler Jr. was returned, according to court records.

The third jacket, which belonged to club member George King, was relinquished to King's family which had had possession of the jacket for decades.

According to earlier reports, Green Jacket Auctions sold a green jacket belonging to Horton Smith, the first winner of the Masters, for $682,000 in 2013.

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