It sat there day after day.
Right where I could see it.
Practically taunting me.
Was it something of great value? Not really. But it was right there for the taking.
It was a golf ball in the dirt median strip of a highway-like thoroughfare near where I live.
Six lanes of traffic.
Cars going at least 50 miles per hour.
Lots of them.
No wonder it sat there for three days.
Every morning as I drove to work, I would look for it.
Every evening as I came home, I would purposely drive in the far left lane, right next to where it was, and see if it was still calling my name.
Yep. Still there.
I never thought I would become someone who makes a hobby out of picking up stray golf balls. But then I moved to a place on a golf course, and my habits changed.
No longer was I an only-new-balls snob. Suddenly, I was finding golf balls – nice ones – around my place all the time. I could spend 45 bucks on a dozen, or I could spend zero. My choice. I chose zero. Most of them look brand new once I clean them up.
Now when I come home, my head is on a swivel as I walk in. Any presents left for me today by some slicing practitioners of our great game? Any Titlelists sitting under a bush or, sometimes, right out in the open by my front door?
Mind you, I will never become one of those people who descend into bushes and forest and something that could be poisonous or perilous in search of a golf ball or two. I don’t need them THAT much.
And I remain very sensitive to the idea of picking up someone else’s ball when they’re looking for it or it’s still in play. That’s a no-no.
But a golf ball in a median strip for three days next to a long par-5? I think we’re safe. I think it’s mine if I want it. Clearly, no one else does.
I needed a strategy, however. I couldn’t just pull over any old time, jog over to the median and pick it up. Most of the time, this is a road where a car goes by every few seconds.
Then I saw my opportunity. I was going on an early morning hike. I would be driving right past it at 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday. There should be no one else out there, and the sun would already be up.
I drove past it again the day before, just to make sure it was still there. It was. I marked the spot visually, equating it with some distinctive bushes on the side of the road.
And then I started having my doubts.
Surely, it couldn’t be a nice ball.
It must have a terrible bruise on it.
Maybe it’s some cheap-o brand that I would never play.
Still, it was the thrill of the hunt. I HAD to get it. I had to find out.
I got up Sunday morning with great anticipation. It was time. I would not be dissuaded.
I drove slowly in the right lane, watching for traffic behind me. There was none.
I watched for those bushes. There they are.
I looked over to the median. There was the ball. Still there.
I was going to do something that most people probably would consider insane. A couple of cars drove past on the other side of the road. I didn’t look at the drivers’ faces, figuring they would be laughing uproariously or shaking their head in disgust.
I snatched the ball. Still no traffic on my side of the road, so I had no trouble getting back to the car.
And then I looked at my prize. A brand new Titleist! Barely a mark on it! Almost as if I had just taken it out of the sleeve! How about that!
If you’re an only-new-balls snob and find this discussion ridiculous, I get it. I was like that once. But now that I haven’t paid for a golf ball in more than three years and still play balls that look like new, I’ve converted.
But it got me wondering: What are the craziest lengths you’ve ever gone to in your quest to pick up a golf ball? I know you’re out there.
Surely you can find them on the course. Many of you carry ball retrievers for just that purpose.
That’s too easy, though. Try expanding your search, and look at it this way: It’s like a treasure hunt, and the treasure isn’t even buried. You’ve just got to take Ferris Bueller’s advice and look around once in awhile because life moves pretty fast — but a lost golf ball isn’t going anywhere until a new owner picks it up.