A lucky Leeds sports fan who caught the golf ball that clinched the British Open for Rory McIlroy looks set to bag thousands of pounds.
Lee Horner, who lives in Cross Gates, found himself at the centre of a global golf ball hunt after US memorabilia website Green Jacket Auctions (GJA) launched a Twitter search last week.
The 49-year-old, who runs a sign manufacturing firm, had been at The Open at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, with friends and family for his brother’s birthday on July 20 when he witnessed McIlroy clinch his third major title at the 18th hole. In celebration the Northern Irish superstar picked the ball up and launched it into the crowd.
Lee has shipped the ball, which has been authenticated by Nike, to America where an ongoing online auction, which finishes on August 9, had bids of well over $6,000 yesterday.
He told the YEP he had opted to sit in the stands all day rather than follow McIlroy round the course with his family – a decision he’s glad he made.
Lee said: “McIlroy just picked the ball up and threw it into the stands and the trajectory was perfect. It was coming straight for me so I put my hands up – if I didn’t it would have hit me straight in the face.
“It hit my hand and it dropped down and everybody was scrambling for it, and when I looked down it was just there at my feet.”
After returning home, the father-of-one put the ball in a drawer at work in Kirkstall without knowing GJA were trying to find him and the major-winning ball that it labelled “a dream piece” – offering a $10,000 reward.
Having heard memorabilia experts value the custom Nike RZN Black “RORS” golf ball at up to $30,000, when contacted he agreed to put it up for auction with 15 per cent of the funds going to GJA rather than taking the reward.
After a “surreal” few days, he added: “I love playing golf, I play quite regularly very, very badly – I haven’t even got a handicap. I spend more time trying to find balls than anything else so I just thought somebody else might get more from the ball than I would, it’s just a ball at the end of the day.”
GJA co-founder Ryan Carey told ESPN.com that he is not aware of any ball from a major championship that has been offered to the public before.
Visit www.greenjacketauctions.com for information.