FAR HILLS, N.J. – A burglary early Wednesday at the USGA Museum is being linked to another local theft involving golf artifacts, investigators told local media.
The U.S. Amateur trophy and a replica of Ben Hogan’s 1953 Hickok Belt award were reported missing after two cases were opened at the U.S. Golf Association’s museum near its headquarters, said Joe Goode, the USGA’s managing director of communications.
The USGA incident and a weekend theft of trophies at nearby Somerset Hills Country Club likely are related, Jack Bennett, a spokesman for the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, told MyCentralNewJersey.com. The website reported that a $5,000 reward is being offered by the Prosecutor’s Office for information leading to an arrest in the USGA heist.
Two display cases were opened at the U.S. Golf Association’s museum and two artifacts were stolen, according to Joe Goode, the managing director of communications for the U.S. Golf Association.
The U.S. Amateur trophy, created in 1926 after the original trophy was destroyed by fire in 1925 at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, was retired in 1992. The Hickok Belt replica was acquired by the USGA from the late Hogan’s estate in 1998 and on display here since 1999.
“This is a deplorable incident, but we are thankful for the safety of our staff,” the USGA said in a statement. “These historical artifacts are an important part of our collection, and their loss is a great disappointment.”
At 2:39 a.m. Wednesday, police responded to an activated burglar alarm at the museum, a spokesman told MyCentralNewJersey.com. The break-in occurred just hours after the USGA unveiled the museum’s Mickey Wright Room, dedicated to a women’s golf pioneer who won 82 LPGA tournaments. LPGA players and officials, in town for the Sybase Match Play Championship in nearby Gladstone, and media were on hand for a news conference and reception at the museum Tuesday night. Wright is the first woman to have a dedicated room at the museum, joining the likes of Bob Jones, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer. The museum also includes the Hall of Champions, a rotunda that houses all 13 USGA national-championship trophies.
The USGA’s Goode said this is the first theft incident in the museum’s history.
A $5,000 reward has been offered by Somerset County Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest.
The museum is open Thursday, curator Michael Trostel confirmed via a text message, after officials removed the center case in the Hall of Champions that housed the U.S. Amateur trophy and moved three other trophies – for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur – into other cases. The Ben Hogan Room is expected to reopen Friday or Saturday.