2002.08.07 Golf may not be as boring as it seems (but I doubt it)

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I’m not a golfer. Except for miniature golf, I’ve never played in my entire life. So when an issue of Golf Magazine mysteriously appeared in my mailbox last week, I expected to find little of interest inside.

And there wasn’t much to catch my eye except an article on scorecard pencils. I suppose memories of using them back when I played mini golf made it the only article I could relate to, but it was quite interesting.

For example, the scorecard pencil industry has sales of approximately $16 million a year, with Ohio-based Panda Pencil, the industry’s largest company, manufacturing about 100 million pencils annually

According to Larry Krane, Panda’s co-owner, a regulation pencil can draw an unbroken line 35 miles long. But most golf pencils are used once, then thrown out, creating repeat business any company would envy.

Of course, repeat business is necessary when a box of 144 pencils costs a maximum of $5.89. That’s for the deluxe model with eraser. Panda’s average golf course customer buys 200 to 300 boxes a year.

I also found out that since 1971, the National Pencil Association has taken steps to ensure that pencils are safe to eat. I’m not sure if that applies to the deluxe model with ferrule (the metal part that attaches the eraser), but if chewing wood appeals to you, Panda produces enough sawdust daily to fill a dump truck.

Even though most of those hundred million golf pencils disappear, apparently forever, another niche in the golf economy devotes itself to the retrieval, reconditioning and resale of the estimated 300 million golf balls lost each year.

A New York Times article recently called the used golf ball business a $200 million dollar industry. Those involved range from youngsters wading into shallow ponds to professionals with air tanks and scuba gear who retrieve and sell up to a million of the estimated 300 million balls lost annually.

Two partners in the golf ball retrieval business interviewed by the Times clean the retrieved balls and sort them into 12 categories according to their condition and original retail price. Some will sell for $2 or more each, some for only a dime, most somewhere in between. The two retrieve balls at the most popular courses every ten days, so usually little cleaning is needed. One of their customers orders 180,000 balls twice yearly to be shipped to Finland.

The article says professional golf ball divers working full time can earn $50,000 to $70,000 annually By starting their own company in an attempt to cut out the middleman, the two Florida  divers interviewed hope to earn $100,000 each.

“Not everybody looks at a murky, slimy, alligator-infested pond filled with golf course pesticide and sees a business opportunity, but we do,”  said diver Greg Siwek.

Siwek lost a front tooth in one confrontation with an alligator. Snakes, eels, snapping turtles, crabs and catfish are other hazards to keep in mind while diving.

An even greater danger to the golf ball diver is drowning. Weighted down by equipment and golf balls, having little or no visibility and having various animals bump into you is a recipe for panic. Several ball divers have drowned in recent years in Florida alone.

Siwek and his partner, Jimmy Lantz, also find hundreds of golf clubs, including entire bags of clubs in their underwater expeditions. Some courses even have abandoned cars in their water hazards. Lantz compares the water hazards at courses around Miami to a parking lot.

Lantz and Siwek also find dozens of watches lost by golfers with too fast of a swing. Lantz reports they are often approached by golfers who offer rewards for their “lost” Rolex watch. The divers have never found a Rolex, however. Most retrieved watches are a Timex or Seiko. Golfers who really own a Rolex are probably smart enough to leave them at home.

While I found both of these articles interesting, I still have no great desire to go play a round of golf. However, I would advise golfers to save their scorecard pencils. You never know when you might need something to distract a hungry alligator.

    – Aug. 7, 2002 
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017