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Kiwi pockets Masters golf ball

Published: 2:51PM Tuesday April 10, 2012 Source: Fairfax

  • Wayne Mitchell shakes hands AGNC member Pete Caye after Mitchell caught a ball thrown by Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa (Source: Getty Images)
    Wayne Mitchell shakes hands AGNC member Pete Caye after Mitchell caught a ball thrown by Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa - Source: Getty Images

A New Zealander pocketed one of the most prized balls in golf, then decided to part with it the same day.

Wayne Mitchell, a 59-year-old ex-pat Kiwi who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was the man every golf fan envied yesterday when he was thrown Louis Oosthuizen's ball after the South African had made an incredible albatross (that's a double eagle in the United States) during the final round of the Masters at Augusta.

It was just the fourth albatross (three shots under par on a hole) in Masters history, and the first on the par-five second.

Oosthuizen holed his second shot, a four-iron from about 260 yards that pierced the two bunkers at the front of the green, took a big jump forward, and rolled down the hill toward the hole, trickling in to spark pandemonium among the gallery.

Incredibly, the former British Open champion, whose brilliant shot catapulted him into the lead early in the fourth round, picked the ball out of the hole and threw it into the first row of the gallery, where Mitchell, who studied at the University of Canterbury, was sitting.

He caught the ball, a Titleist 4 with a dot on it, and showed the people sitting around him, as well as the hordes of reporters and cameramen eager to get a gawk at it.

''My biggest fear was that I would drop it,'' he told Yahoo! Sports. ''I'm not a souvenir chaser. But there were about 100 people behind me who would have gone for it.''

For a long time it looked as though that shot would win Oosthuizen a green jacket.

He wasn't headed until the second playoff hole when American Bubba Watson made par to his bogey to win the title, the big-hitting left-hander rivalling Oosthuizen's second-hole heroics with a magnificent second shot from among the trees at the par-four 10th that landed within three metres of the pin.

That no doubt reduced the value of Mitchell's ball. However, via Twitter, a memorabilia company was still prepared to offer $US20,000 for it.

It wasn't enough, though, to tempt Mitchell, who is vice president and general manager of Global Electronics at Air Products and Chemicals. He does not appear to

need the money, either. With his wife, he was reported to have flown out of an executive airport in South Carolina on Sunday night.

Before he left, he met some of the Augusta National members and gave the ball to them. He said he was ''respectful'' of the club's tradition and would gladly return it to the player if he wanted it back.

The club declined to say what, if any, compensation, monetarily or otherwise was made.

Mitchell also kept the details of the transaction quiet, though there have been suggestions a round or two on the famous course might not have been far off the mark.

''I'm not a souvenir-grabber,'' Mitchell told The Morning Call newspaper.

''For me, the ball clearly represented a special moment in history. Now, it's in the hands of the club, where it belongs.

''Not everything is measured in dollars and cents. [The golf ball] is part of history. I didn't have a need for it. I don't really see a need for me to take that moment.

''I never even thought about it from that respect. I still don't see a reason to do that.''