Golf club owner collects signed wine bottles

Signature collection

PHOTO BY JACOB GURNEY Bobby Pollitt, owner of Seneca Hills Golf Club, holds a bottle of wine signed by President Donald Trump, which is a part of his collection consisting primarily of golfers.

The owner of Seneca Hills Golf Club, 4044 W. TR 98, has been collecting signed wine bottles for about seven years.

Bobby Pollitt said he began collecting wine bottles in 2011. Providing some background, he said he is a Professional Golf Association member for club professionals. While touring professionals play on television, club professionals work at golf courses, Pollitt said.

In the mid-1990s, he played in a tour event called the Ben Hogan Tour. After the event, Pollitt wrote Hogan a thank-you note and Hogan wrote a letter back to him.

Then, when Pollitt bought Seneca Hills Golf Club in 2011, a Ben Hogan Wine came out, even though he had died. Pollitt said the seven-bottle series was interesting because the first bottle has the start of Hogan’s swing on it and the last bottle has the end of his swing, so when they are in order they show his entire swing. Pollitt purchased the wine and said he thought with the letter he got back from Hogan and the wine, he could make them the centerpiece of his trophy case.

“I just bought the club, so I was trying to make the place look nice and everything like that…,” he said. “Because I had Mr. Hogan’s wine, I said ‘OK, this is unique and I wonder how many pros have wines and I know some of them.’ I just wanted something different that the people coming in the clubhouse would look at and it wasn’t just golf balls or a visor like most people have. This is very unique.”

PHOTO BY JACOB GURNEY Bobby Pollitt holds a bottle of wine signed by Arnold Palmer, which he said is the best signature he has in the collection.

Pollitt said he knew Greg Norman had a wine, and he thought he could collect the touring pros’ wine and have them sign them because he knew some of them.

“I knew Greg Norman had a wine and I won this tournament, The Shark Shootout, for club pros in 2007 … and a friend of mine is a pro at (Norman’s) club, called The Medalist. So, I call him up and I go down there and have Norman sign my bottle of wine,” Pollitt said.

He said he and his son own a small company together where they do things in the golf business. Pollitt said the business sells high-end tournament supplies, including making table covers and they provide the supplies to the tours events including the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships.

“We do business with the Arnold Palmer Invitational, so I talked to them, to Mr. Palmer’s business manager and he (had) a bottle signed for me,” Pollitt said.

After getting the bottle and getting it all together, he said he started to research who had their own line of wine and who he knew. Pollitt said he knows Bruce Fleisher, David Frost, Annika Sorenstam and he knows somebody who knows Nick Faldo and was able to get their wines and have them signed.

PHOTO BY JACOB GURNEY 2 Bobby Pollitt has more than 20 signed bottles of wine on display at Seneca Hills Golf Club, 4044 W. TR 98.

“I get those signed and then for the other bottles I contacted their sports agent or the winery that makes their wine and get bottles that way,” he said.

Pollitt said Bruce Fleisher is an interesting story because he and Bruce played a lot of golf together. He said he got off the tour because he was in his mid-40s and got a club job in Miami.

“He calls me up and wants to know, ‘How (do) I run this club, Bobby? All I’ve ever done is play. I don’t know how to run a club,'” Pollitt said. “So, I had to go down there and tell him some things and bring some forms to him and I told him the best thing he can do is hire a good assistant that knows what’s going on so (Fleisher) can do what the members want him to do, which is play and teach.”

Fleisher just needed to fill the five-year gap until he turned 50, which is when he “went lights out” on the Senior Tour and won about seven times, Pollitt said.

Pollitt is from Elida originally, and moved to Florida, spending 30 years there as a club professional. Being in the golf business for 48 years, Pollitt has gained a lot of contacts being around that and working at high-end clubs in the Jupiter, Florida, and Palm Beach area.

“I met a lot of nice people and important people, so that’s why I got the contacts to pull off all these autographs and everything,” he said.

He said he was looking for something to do from age 59 to 70 and he wanted to own a golf course, which is when he bought Seneca Hills.

“I was looking for some place that I thought had potential and I thought this golf course did for various reasons and so we’ve turned it around quite a bit from where it was,” he said.

Pollitt is expecting to get four more signed bottles by the end of the year, which will bring his total from club professionals or PGA Tour people to 20 bottles of wine. He said most of them are made by other wineries that just use their name and make a brand off of it, but a couple own their own wineries.

Pollitt said he is to get a bottle of Retief Goosen’s wine called “The Goose” and he is to get a bottle from Jan Stephenson, who was an LPGA superstar in the 1970s and ’80s. He said he is getting a bottle from Louis Oosthuizen, whose bottle is called “Louis 57” because he shot a 57 at a professional event in South Africa, an incredibly low score. Finally, he is to get one from Christi Kerr, whom he had met with and spoke to about her wine before.

Pollitt said the problem getting the South African wines is that a lot of times they don’t sell them in America, so he has to get them shipped over.

“I always pay for the expenses of it; I don’t try and get them to give it to me for free, that’s not the purpose,” he said.

Pollitt said he will be very happy when he gets the four bottles and is probably going to put together a little pamphlet because you can’t read the back labels while they’re in the display and usually, there’s some interesting stories on the back of the wine. He said while Stephenson and Kerr are no-brainers because they’re in the United States, he worries about the Goosen and Ooshausen wines and them shipping it to him.

“I may have to take it down to Muirfield (Golf Club) and have them sign it there. Sometimes (the golfers) sign it in the plant or the winery and ship them and sometimes they’ll come blank and I got to take them somewhere to get them signed,” Pollitt said.

Pollitt also has a bottle of Jack Nicklaus’ wine.

“I got Mr. Jack Nicklaus’ bottle, and it’s signed because my ex-assistant is his head pro in Jupiter, Florida,” he said. “It’s a small world — his first job in the golf business was working for me in Florida and now he’s working for Jack Nicklaus in one of the best clubs in the United States.”

Pollitt said all the golfers have been great and he thinks it is because he is a PGA professional.

“If I was an amateur doing it, I think it would be more difficult; but because I’m a PGA professional and I own my own golf course and I played in four tour events, they’re more attuned to me since they’re touring pros,” he said.

While he’s never had any golfers turn him down, a couple didn’t work out, Pollitt said. He said there is a wine by Christy O’Connor, but he unfortunately died during the process of Pollitt getting it. Pollitt also said he spoke to John Daly at the Masters and he had a wine in the mid-2000s, but he wouldn’t help him because Daly had a falling out with the makers of the wine. Pollitt said the first event he played in, the Hogan event, was when he first met Daly.

“To give the readers an idea of how far he hits it, two things happened during that tournament. We got done doing a clinic for the junior golfers and they said we now have a long drive guy named John Daly and he’s going to hit, and the first ball he hit was 350 yards to the other end of the range and some kid bent over and picked it up,” Pollitt said. “And during the tournament, during the first hole there at Par 5, I knocked a driver 4-wood on the green and John Daly hit a driver 8-iron. There’s a big difference between a 4-wood and an 8-iron. So that was my introduction to seeing John Daly.”

At Seneca Hills, Pollitt also has a collection of books for the kids and members that includes fiction, non-fiction and coffee table books as well as books that will help kids with sports psychology and rules, he said. Pollitt said he also collects Jim Beam decanters that have to do with golf, but he switched mostly to the wine bottles because he thought they were neater.

He said in addition to his PGA pros collection, he has other signed bottles of wine, including ones that are signed by Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, both of whom won Super Bowls. Pollitt also has a bottle of golfer Fuzzy Zoeller’s vodka.

“In 1974, Fuzzy and I lived together in Fort Meyers for one week during Thanksgiving and played golf every day,” he said. “He was attending a junior college there and I had never seen anybody that good before. It was remarkable to play, just he and I together for just five straight days.”

Pollitt also has two bottles signed by President Donald Trump that were signed before he ran for office. One of them is a magnum bottle of champagne from his winery in Virginia, Pollitt said. Pollitt said he does business with Trump’s golf courses and he knew a pro in Palm Beach where he spends most of his time who said he would be glad to get him to sign it.

“I sent the bottles down there and he got Mr. Trump to sign three of them, he got two for me and I gave one of them to my son,” he said.

Pollitt said he tries to get each person to personalize the bottles but some of them just sign their name because they get so many requests. One bottle from Trump is personalized and says, “Best of luck at Seneca Hills Golf Club, Donald J. Trump,” and is displayed in his trophy case as well, he said.

“I put the bottle down here because some people want to break it and some people want to steal it,” Pollitt joked.

He plans to continue to get all the bottles he can and says he’s “got a good collection” now. Pollitt said once he’s gets those four bottles, he is going to keep looking.

“I assume that Tiger Woods will have a wine one day and I know how to get his signature,” he said.

Pollitt said someday he hopes to have a private label wine of his own called Pollitt Reserve. As for his current collection, he was adamant about who had the best signature.

“The best signature on this whole collection is Mr. Palmer’s. Some of them you can’t read, but Mr. Palmer always said, ‘If somebody wants your autograph, you better sign it so they can read it,'” Pollitt said. “He took the time because you know, you go down a row like this and you got little kids that want it and go like this but Mr. Palmer (took his time).”

As for a favorite bottle, he said there were a few that were up there.

“The (Sorenstram) bottle is interesting because it is much heavier than the other bottles, the glass is much thicker. Mr. Nicklaus is a favorite because his kids used to play tournaments at my club so I got to know him and of course Mr. Palmer, because everybody loves Mr. Palmer,” Pollitt said.

He said he plans to give his collection to his son one day. If his son doesn’t want it, he plans to have some young club professional do an essay on why they want to take care of his wine and why they are the right person to take care of his collection when he died, Pollitt said. When they retire, they then will have to give it to the next club professional, he said.

“I’m really loyal to the PGA of America for everything they’ve done for me,” Pollitt said. “I don’t plan on ever selling my collection and I don’t plan on drinking it.”