Just like many of us here at this site, we enjoy trying to build our mini collections of golf equipment and trinkets that we deem necessary or desirable. Many times we spend ungodly amounts of money for golf stuff that never even touched the hands of anyone famous in the golf world. Other times, we get the special opportunity to obtain something tangible that once belonged to a John Daly, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones or Nick Faldo.
Enter one Mr. Henry Campbell. Henry, like many golf fans, was lured in by some very collectible Nick Faldo golf memorabilia items that he discovered for sale on the internet. Sometimes, these types of deals just seem too good to be true. In this case, at least in the short term, they were true. As time unraveled , these expensive and highly collectible items, honestly purchased by Henry were fleeting and on their way back to their original and rightful owner.
Many of you, if you surf golf related or putter related websites with any regularity, may already know of Henry’s sad story. It’s a costly one for sure. So, before you drop your last two weeks paycheck on that sweet Scotty Cameron prototype putter that some tour player had owned for a time or even gamed on tour, buyer beware.
Most of us are just average golf joes, just searching for that little bit of golf history or a certain golf collectible that catches our eye and at the same time trying to hide that same expensive purchase from the wife. Heck, even tour pros covet some of these types of golf items. Take Davis Love III for example in a story published on PGAtour.com. Davis even admits he would like to own Tiger Woods’ putter. In fact, who wouldn’t like to? A man of his means freely admits, he can’t fathom dropping that kind of coin for that flatstick. Davis said, “I’ve paid over $1,000 for putters," Love said. "I’m caught up with it, too. I’m buying Brad Faxon’s and Ben Curtis’ and David Duval’s. I can’t afford Tiger’s. Too expensive. They’ll go 8, 10, 12,000 bucks. They had one set they were trying to get $29,000 for the set of four of them or something." So, just like us, Davis spends his evenings drooling over Cameron putters that he views on eBay, of all places. "Type in Scotty Cameron on eBay," Love said. "You’ll be shocked. Shocked. There’ll be sometimes over 1,000 items." However, Davis gets a lot of really sweet putter swag just for gaming a Scotty. In fact, I would bet the farm he could get Scotty to make him anything he wants with a simple call on the cell phone. Heck, he might even have Scotty’s number in his phone. The rest of us? We have to bust out the cash via different channels, and none as direct as Davis Love III has.
Which leads me back to Henry’s plight. Henry purchased a lot of Nick Faldo’s personal stash of golf equipment, as well as some of Nick’s personal golf memorabilia.
Read on as I interviewed Henry about this whole debacle. You see, all of this stuff, which was legitimately purchased, was purportedly stolen from Nick Faldo, thus tossing a huge monkey wrench into Henry’s prized and very expensive golf collection. I spoke with Henry via e-mail and he answered some questions about having to give up a collection that he paid over $20,000 dollars for. The next time you go to purchase something collectible and expensive, think twice about creating a webpage and sharing it all with the world. Honest buyers might just be better off keeping these said purchases to themselves and the basement carpet.
How did you get into collecting golf equipment and such?
I have played golf for 20 years and always liked putters in particular. After I got my first Cameron about 5 years ago, I soon discovered there was a big collector’s scene, so I started to follow some of the websites. I then got my first limited edition, then a second and it all exploded from there. After a year or so, I decided I was most interested in real tour putters, so I started to focus on those.
Where did you make the majority of your purchases?
To begin, on eBay, but later more through direct contact with collectors via various websites. The Nick Faldo putters started on eBay too. By chance, I played at a corporate golf event the Monday following the 2006 WGC event in the UK at the course it was played. Nick Faldo was the host and played a hole with each group. He had an old Del Mar 3.5 in his bag, which I liked the look of. About 3 weeks later a black DM 3.5 appeared on ebay and the seller said it was Faldo’s. I contacted the seller and asked if he would send it for authentication to Scotty if I won it. I won it, he sent it and Scotty authenticated it as Faldo’s. The seller then contacted me and told me he had some more stuff, and over the next number of months I bought a bunch more putters as well as some memorabilia.
Name several of the items that you really liked in your collection?
I liked the signed Open 2000 menu (see pic on email), and the following putters:
But a bunch of them, say 8 or 9 were really nice pieces and worthy of a place in any collection.
How did you come to find out you had unknowingly purchased Nick Faldo’s personal items?
I was in the United States on business and got a call on my cell phone from Nick Faldo’s manager. He told me the putters had been stolen, along with other stuff from Faldo’s home in Florida.
How were they stolen from him?
There is a dispute about whether they were actually stolen. The best information I have is that the putters were given to a contractor as partial payment for work done on the property. A former Nick Faldo employee handled this arrangement. Nick Faldo later disputed that he had agreed to this.
The story may not be as simple as I was first informed. I now know that these putters were in his garage and were all tarnished and some were corroded, and needed repair or even restoration. I now doubt these were really part of his “special collections” which were mostly in his A/C den. Some of the special collection were also stolen, but I never saw any of those.
Did his manager or agent stumble across your website?
No idea. Nor how they got my phone number, but I suspect it was from Scotty Cameron, because I sent all the putters to Cameron for authentication and he must have noticed the large number of Faldo putters coming through.
What were your options when you found out the stuff was "hot"?
I live in the United Kingdom, and the alleged theft occurred in the US. The most obvious option was to do nothing and wait for the legal process to complete. Given the international nature of the events, I would imagine there may be some complicated processes involved in retrieving them if I had been unwilling to give them up voluntarily.
Was there any additional contact with the individual that sold you the stolen items?
Yes. I contacted him and he told me how he had obtained them, which he believed was in good faith.
What did Nick Faldo decide to allow you to keep?
I returned about 15 putters to Nick, the Open menu and a couple of money clips and divot tools. Faldo eventually (about 9 months later) returned 3 putters, none of which were among my favorites. I contacted the manager to say I was disappointed, and he told me they would send some other collectible stuff to me. Nothing arrived, even after a reminder.
Are you still a golf collector, or have you decided not to engage in these types of items?
I am so sickened by the whole event I have decided to give up collecting and I am part way through selling my collection.
Were the authorities involved, or too busy to investigate such a crime?
I provided a lot of information to the Winter Park Police Department, and agreed to give an affadavit, but I have not been asked to do so. I believe the contractor is facing charges of grand larceny and is due in court this month.
How quickly were you expected to return the items to Nick Faldo?
I was not expected to return them – I did so voluntarily as an upstanding and honest citizen. I have been rather disappointed with Faldo’s manager and lawyer’s support. They have been more concerned with ensuring that Faldo is not portrayed as a bad guy than anything else. I asked them whether the items stolen were insured, but received no answer.
Approximately how much money did you lose in this endeavor?
A bit over $20,000 cost, but very probably $30,000+ in resale value.
I can’t help but think that Henry got the shaft here. I sent an e-mail to Nick Faldo’s representative and quite honestly, I did not expect a return reply. Much to my chagrin, he did reply, but he didn’t really offer any information or even answer the questions that I asked. This was the extent of the Faldo press office’s reply, “In response to your email, Nick had a number of items of memorabilia stolen – not only putters, the list also included highly prized personal effects spanning his 30 year golf career. All of the stolen goods were sentimentally valuable to Nick and irreplaceable. The matter was referred to the police and a conviction has now been secured. As far as Nick is concerned, the matter has now been laid to rest.” Me? I was hoping that Nick Faldo’s press office would be willing to give me some more specific details on the theft, the accused (who was later convicted), but I guess they chose not to share this information with me.
Since Nick Faldo got all of his stuff back, and because one Henry Campbell was completely above board and honest, it is laid to rest on Nick’s end. On Henry’s end he is over $20K poorer and with very, very little to show for it. Understandably, Henry is quite soured by the whole circumstance and even more soured that according to Henry Campbell , Nick Faldo did not uphold his end of the bargain to allow him to keep more stuff, or even provide him with some sort of monetary compensation. Or better yet, with all of Nick’s golf connections, hook up Henry with some cool tour putters, that probably wouldn’t cost Nick a dime to obtain. Henry went way beyond what most people would even do; especially after spending over $20K on what he thought were honest golf purchases for his collection.
Henry is an honest man and he says, “the main point I would make is that I gave these back 100% voluntarily, based on it’s the right thing to do.” Nick Faldo’s manager then promised me that Nick Faldo would show his gratitude. Not sure that I have seen it yet.
This sounds like an extremely tangled web, and it is not my intention as the author of this story to paint a poor picture of Mr. Faldo. I would just like this story to air so that the rest of us “average joes” with some money burning a hole in our pocket don’t waste our last hard earned dollar buying a stolen, used on tour, collectible putter. I personally own several Scotty putters myself, my prized one being the Inspired by David Duval putter which I will never part with. Hopefully David Duval doesn’t contact me wanting it back. Seriusly though, the whole Scotty Cameron collecting scene, no matter how cool it is to many people, has a darker side to it as well. Unfortunately, this story is just one of those dark sides, stolen tour used Cameron stuff (as well as other golf memorabilia), sold to an unsuspecting buyer/collector as a legitimate sale.
It’s too bad that Henry now feels that these items may have been given to the contractor in good faith, although others he saw were not, but all of them got swept up in the same process. "Suffice it to say, I think my Camerons had probably been given in good faith by Faldo’s former employee and I have lost them because of disputes between that individual and Nick Faldo. I really regret giving them back at all.
So the next time you see a highly collectible putter or a collectible golf related item on eBay, remain skeptical, do some additional research, and buyer beware before you plop down that hard earned $2500 (or more) on that item. You just might be paying for something you shouldn’t be buying the first place. Like Henry, you’ll be the one regretting giving it all back.