Having shrunk my collection considerably over the last year, I’ve found myself suffering vintage club purchase withdrawals. In an effort to satisfy my rectangular-box cravings I made a small exception a few weeks ago. It’s not a full iron set, or a fancy vintage driver, but rather a unique wedge which offers up more in the way of intriguing possibility than established value.
At first glance it appears to be a standard Wilson JP (Joe Phillips) pitching wedge. For the uninitiated, Joe Phillips was one of Wilson’s master clubmakers when they were thriving in the 1980′s. The Illinois Golf Hall of Fame offers this regarding Mr. Phillips:
For more than 40 years, Phillips worked for Wilson Sporting Goods and during that time came to be recognized as the face of Wilson Golf to tour and club professionals alike. As vice-president of golf promotions, Phillips’ responsibilities included negotiating and signing golf professionals on both the PGA and LPGA tours as well as researching and developing new club designs, including Wilson’s JP wedge series. The list of touring professionals Phillips worked with reads like a virtual who’s who of golf, including Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Patty Berg. A native of Philadelphia and an accomplished saxophonist, Phillips attended Granoff School of Music. He is a past president of Golf Manufacturers and Distributors Association, and former chairman of the National Golf Foundation. In 1984 Wilson Sporting Goods established the Joe Phillips Cup in his honor, with Sarazen the first recipient.
During the 80′s JP custom grind wedges were top-of-the-class and were featured prominently in the bags of Seve, Tome Kite, Jerry Pate, Nick Faldo, and Payne Stewart, amongst others. In fact, I have it on good authority that this famous chip was executed with a JP wedge (Hole 18, Open Championship, 1988, Lytham).
With such popularity, EBay is strewn with JP wedges of all makes, models, and grinds. Even so, this one caught my eye based on several surprising features:
- The sole is stamped “PITCHING WEDGE” but there is a loft stamp of 56 degrees on the back (standard sand wedge loft)
- There is another custom stamp on the back reading: “SHARK”
- It’s one of the heaviest wedges I’ve ever swung
- There is a black leather wrap grip which I don’t think was offered as standard
- Shaft is unlabeled but feels super-stiff
So, the obvious question: Could this be a wedge made for Greg Norman’s personal use? Did he request a pitching wedge head bent up to 56 degrees loft? Is the black leather grip consistent with The Shark’s preferred specs from the late 80′s?
I scoured the interweb but cannot find any mention of The Shark using a JP wedge. Did this belong to Greg Norman or some random insurance salesman in Ohio who liked to call himself “Shark”? I doubt I’ll ever know for sure, but for $10 the mystery is well worth the investment!