Art Eden, who scoured garage sales and flea markets in the United States and Europe to amass once one of the world's largest collections of golf tees, died Aug. 30. He was 96.
He had gold and silver tees; tees of bamboo and redwood and jade. Tees made out of buffalo horns and the ivory from a mammoth's tusk.
A gold-plated "nudie" tee served up the ball on a woman's derriere. "Those tees were to help the golfer keep his head down," said his wife, Helen, 95.
A former tool and die designer, Mr. Eden sold motor homes in Illinois and Cincinnati. In 1956 he and Helen moved to Madeira Beach, where they bought and sold real estate. In 1978 he joined the Golf Collectors Society, which has since doubled in membership to 1,200 members.
Later he encouraged Lee Crist, a regional sales manager, to get into the hobby. "When he first got me into it, he had the largest collection (in the world)," said Crist, 77, of Duncansville, Pa., who says his collection now outstrips that of his mentor.
"There's always that elusive piece that every collector thinks will make his or her collection complete," said Karen Bednarski, the Golf Collectors Society's executive director. "But once they find it, they realize something else is missing."
Often the best finds came by digging through the pockets of second-hand golf bags. Mr. Eden once found a rare "tethered tee" (three tees tied together) by doing this in a musty antique shop in Scotland.
In recent years, Mr. Eden contended with dementia. Six months ago, his wife sold his golf memorabilia to a California collector for $8,000. She kept one of his favorite artifacts, a globe he made himself out of yellow golf balls. It sits on a marble base and rotates at 23 degrees.
"Like the world," she said.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.
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Arthur Clayton Eden
Born: Nov. 16, 1912.
Died: Aug. 30, 2009.
Survivors: Wife, Helen; brother, John; and several nieces and nephews.
Service: In Pekin, Ill., date to be determined.