This historic Tiger Woods golf ball is officially on the auction block

tiger woods hole in one Milwaukee

Heritage Auctions is auctioning off Woods' first hole-in-one ball from his pro debut.

Heritage Auctions

With a crack of the bat, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge deposited his 62nd home run into the left field seats, passing Roger Maris for the most in a season by an American League player. On the receiving end of Judge’s-100 mph moonshot was Cory Youmans, who managed to secure the historic ball in his glove. Youmans knew what he had in his hands when he was ushered out of the stadium by ballpark security: a potential $3-plus million financial windfall.

Unlike Youmans, Bob Gustin had no idea how significant the golf ball Tiger Woods flipped to the crowd would turn out to be back in 1996. While attending Woods’ pro debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open, Gustin watched Woods record his first hole-in-one as a professional on the par-3 14th hole. As Woods went to retrieve the ball, a group of fans behind the green, including Gustin and his brother-in-law, David Beck, pleaded with the 15-time major winner to throw the ball their way.

Woods obliged. The ball initially bounced off Beck’s hand and wound up in Gustin’s lap, capping off a memorable day at the tournament. But it didn’t stop there. With an assist from tournament director Tom Strong, Woods also wound up signing the hole-in-one ball for Gustin.

Woods milwaukee hole in one golf ball
Woods recorded an ace in his first pro start. Getty Images

For the past 26 years, the ball has been one of Gustin’s most cherished golf items. But with collectibles on the rise, Gustin is hoping to cash in on the significance by auctioning it off through Heritage Auctions. While a Woods-used golf ball is special in its own right, the significance of this particular ball cannot be understated.

“It’s difficult to equate the significance of this ball to something in another sport,” said Chris Nerat, Heritage Auctions’ sports consignment director. “This is more than just someone hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown in his first game, because those things, while exceedingly difficult and impressive, happen far more frequently than a hole-in-one. Then you have to add in the act that Tiger Woods arrived with huge pressure. He had been on TV so much as a kid, and had won so much as an amateur, that everyone who knew anything about golf knew exactly who he was. This wasn’t like a first-round pick who should become a great player. He was tagged as a can’t-miss superstar. Maybe you could compare this to LeBron James, who came out of school with can’t-miss expectations, scoring 50 points in his debut or something like that. But there aren’t many parallels that can be drawn.

With the ball expected to go for more than $50,000, Gustin already knows what he’s doing with the proceeds: He plans to split the sale with his brother-in-law who deflected the ball into his lap.

“Whatever it goes for, I’m splitting that with my brother-in-law, David,” Gustin said. “He’s the one who shouted, ‘Throw it over here!’ He’s the one who it deflected off of before it came to me. We both had a part in me ending up with this ball, so we’ll both enjoy it after it goes to someone else.”

Several Woods-used items have sold for record numbers in the last few years. Gustin is hoping for a similar result in his favor.

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Jonathan Wall Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at