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A PING? KA-CHING!
A $3 thrift shop find is a rare and valuable putter.
By KELLIE DIXON, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007
Ron Burnham plunked down $3 at a thrift store for a rare Ping putter that he said an appraiser estimated could sell for $2,000.
[Kellie Dixon | Times]
[Kellie Dixon | Times]
Ron Burnham's rare 1A model club was among the first putters made by legendary Ping founder Karsten Solheim before he moved his operations from California to Arizona.
For now, the rare Ping putter is just a conversation piece.
But if the price is right, Ron Burnham won't hesitate to sell the club, which has been appraised at $2,000.
Burnham, a 69-year-old golf professional, found it a few weeks ago while browsing through a thrift store - he won't say which one - in Pasco County. He couldn't believe his good fortune when he saw it. He took it home for only $3.
"You wonder what happened here, how someone could do this," Burnham said. "But you never know."
What makes the 1A model club so special? It was among the first putters made by legendary Ping founder Karsten Solheim before he moved his operations from California to Arizona.
Solheim started Ping after working for years at General Electric.
Rob Griffin, a historian at Ping for 20 years, said this is the model of putter that rings when you strike a ball - that's how the company got its name. The company still offers the model, although it has been modified.
Griffin said a club like the one Burnham bought likely cost around $17.50 when it was first produced in Redwood City, Calif. The club was released anywhere from 1959 to 1961, he said.
Right now, Griffin said, the Ping Scottsdale Anser putter is among the most valuable.
"As time goes on, the Redwood City putters are probably going to continue to rise in value," Griffin said.
Griffin added that the company doesn't know how many were made because Solheim didn't keep records. Griffin said he is often surprised by what callers dig up.
He said it was especially unusual to find such a valuable club at a thrift store.
"These things still surface, you know" Griffin said. "Collectors kind of feel like there is still stuff out there in attics and garages. It does surface. But generally not at a thrift store."
But that's where Burnham looks. He stops by on his way to his home in New Port Richey almost every day.
The Ping putter tops the list of his finds, but he said he has had other surprises, too. In old golf bags, for instance, he has found ladies' rings.
He loves looking, but mostly just for golf stuff.
Burnham grew up in Tampa and played junior golf. Along the way, he caddied for Babe Zaharias and then as a player made it to the PGA Tour.
But when his sponsor money faded, he decided to stick with teaching the game. He currently is a golf professional at Forest Hills in Holiday.
And in his free time, he'll stop by a thrift shop or two.
"You never know what you're going to find," he said.