ESPN reported on December 11th that a Masters Golf Tournament Trophy purchased for Arnold Palmer sold for $444,012. The report, which was copied and pasted across many other outlets, also noted that Bay Creek Resort purchased the trophy in 2005:
Palmer had three trophies in his possession, but he authorized the fourth to be purchased by the Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia. The resort featured a Palmer course that opened in 2001.The resort took possession of the trophy, which cost about $17,000, in 2005, with the intention of putting it in a massive museum on the property. But financial and legal problems scrapped plans for the project, and the trophy was privately sold to a foreign collector in 2013.
The Cape Charles Mirror contacted Green Jacket Auctions to ascertain the trophy’s chain of custody but was told that they “cannot divulge the names of our consignors nor our winning bidders for privacy reasons.”
The report listing Bay Creek Resort raised several questions–Bay Creek Resort is a fictitious name of a business that does not own any property in Cape Charles, and as far as the trophy being planned for a “museum”, no listed IRS non-profit organization titled Palmer Nicklaus Golf Museum, Bay Creek Golf Museum or Foundation, etc. is to be found, so how did the trophy which was tax paid/tax assessed at the time of the award, transfer from a golfer, his organization, etc., to an individual or corporation, who then could or would sell such a trophy? Palmer’s giving the trophy to a proposed non-profit was probably not advisable.
The Cape Charles Mirror contacted Oral Lambert of Bay Creek on Monday for clarification. Lambert told the Mirror that, “Bay Creek Resort never owned the Trophy and never had possession of it…Bay Creek did not sell it as it was never Bay Creek’s to sell.”
According to Lambert, the trophy was acquired by Bay Creek developer Richard (Dickie) Foster, head of Baymark Construction, and was kept in a secured place either at his home in Bay Creek, or his home in Virginia Beach. It may have been brought out for a tournament, but it was mainly kept locked away from the public. According to sources, including Mr. Lambert, Foster also acquired a fairly large amount of golf memorabilia which he kept at his home in Virginia Beach. There were rumors that Jack Nicklaus donated items to the museum, such as one of his famous putters. The Cape Charles Mirror contacted Scott Tolley, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications & Business Development for the Nicklaus Companies to confirm whether Mr. Nicklaus donated or sold anything to Bay Creek or Mr. Foster. Per their records, along with records from the Jack Nicklaus Museum, “it appears that the Museum did not loan or gift Bay Creek anything. The last communication the Museum Curator has is from 2006. This situation at Bay Creek is a very good example of why museums are very careful about lending to a non-museum, such as a golf club. It’s unfortunate … Very sad,” Tolley said.
How Foster managed to get Palmer to agree for him to take possession of the trophy is still a mystery, however keeping it locked up at home does not appear to be what was agreed upon by Palmer, per this statement by Palmer’s family:
“Ultimately, these owners did not build the museum and, instead of sending the trophy to Arnold, the owners sold the trophy to a third party without notifying the family,” the statement said. “It was always Arnold’s intention that this trophy would be placed in an appropriate museum or institution with which he was personally associated. We hope that the winning bidder in this auction will allow the trophy to be publicly displayed so that it can be appreciated by fans of Arnold Palmer for years to come.”
Whether Foster and Bay Creek ever intended to create a museum is not known. The idea appeared in 2009 when Travel and Leisure Magazine published the following details in the Virginia section of the top 100 golf courses by State:
Bay Creek, Cape Charles (New)
Serenity and stimulation strike a fine balance on the Chesapeake, where Bay Creek’s plan includes a forty-thousand-square-foot clubhouse with a Palmer-Nicklaus museum. The community built its Coach House in the meantime, a nineteen-thousand-square-foot facility housing the golf shop and a tavern.
The Museum, at least the idea of one, found its genesis when Palmer and Nicklaus joined into a partnership together in which they both could plan and be a part of major golf and retirement community. While Bay Creek, Foster et.al may have concocted the golf museum idea, it was Brown & Root’s to build the two golf courses with Palmer and Nicklaus (as well as the PUD). Given that in 2009, the US and Bay Creek was amid a major financial downturn, the golf museum idea was dubious at best. Where was the funding coming from and who baffled Travel & Leisure with such a ridiculous story?
While local and national news stories may have mixed up the trophy’s chain of custody, the Bay Creek brand will always be associated with this event—even though Richard Foster acquired the trophy, it probably wasn’t to display on his mantle, but to try to benefit and differentiate the Bay Creek brand from other golf communities. Can Bay Creek and Dickie Foster ever really be separated?
The Palmer trophy was acquired as part of a proposed Bay Creek golf museum, and it was instead sold, presumably to pay off debts. If this had been done to Bernard Langer, it may not be that big of a deal—but, it was done to Arnold Palmer, aka The King. The repercussions from an angry and disappointed world golf community have only just begun to be felt in Cape Charles.