HOW MUCH does a round of golf with Thomas Bjorn, or hospitality tickets to the DP World Tour Championship, fetch at charity auction? It depends, it turns out, on how creatively the auctioneer can insult a gathering of high-net-worth individuals.
The scene is a black-tie gala in an English garden during a heat wave. Servers roam with trays of champagne and fruit-infused gin on ice. Earlier in the day, at the pro-am outing at Wentworth, Ian Woosnam impressed with one-arm push-ups, and Alvaro Quiros boasted sarcastically about winning his first event in two years. The indefatigable host of the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational, the Black Knight, remarked after pro Inci Mehmet piped a drive past his, “Boy, if you were married to her, you wouldn’t want to come home late.”
Which is to say the atmosphere is loose, celebratory. Since its inception in 1983, Player’s foundation has raised more than $64 million to support schools and provide medical care to disadvantaged children across the globe. Berenberg is a German bank, and it’s thanks largely to its executives and clients that the goal of $100 million is in reach. For the 36 amateurs hanging tonight with 36 pros—seven major champions among them—such intimacy is the reward for their generosity. But they are about to get roasted. Jonny Gould, a self-described “fifth-rate British television host from another time” who found his true calling as an auctioneer, has th