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A Very Strange Hobby

Micheal Petrillo

Or Least the Children Remind Us

You may remember that I have a somewhat unusual hobby.  Perhaps you don’t remember – a sure sign of old age setting in.  Yes, I admit I still actively pursue this hobby, although I did take a long, long break away from it.  What I am referring to, of course is painting golf balls.  I actually started painting golf balls in high school.  It took a recent visit back to Camp Hill, a little reminiscing, and a request from very good friend to make me remember how it all began.

At a recent get-together, we talked about painting golf balls.  I mentioned that I had stopped painting for a few years, but that my daughters requested a golf ball each, so I made them each 2 golf balls.  Then I asked Ben Myers, “If you could have a painted golf ball, what would you want?”  Ben immediately replied, “I don’t know, the world?”  An excellent choice, so I promised to paint the world on a golf ball for him.  I then asked Zuzu Myers the same question.  She replied, “I don’t know, something...something significant in your life.”  A most challenging request, so I promised to make such a golf ball for her.  When I sat down to think about significant events, I tried to list what could be put on a golf ball.  Of course anything you could imagine could be rendered on a golf ball, so I thought maybe a collage of significant events –

But what?  Which ones?  Logos, cartoons? A corn stalk? A green Torino? Ice skates? Hockey stick? The star in the Lutheran Church Steeple?  The possibilities were endless, and the surface of a golf ball is not endless.  I know what you are thinking, how could you assign significance to all these events: weren’t they just ordinary days in the life of a high school teenager?  Call me crazy (you don’t really have to do it, it’s just an expression) but I feel that all these events and more have made a significant contribution to the person I have become.

So how do we satisfy Zuzu’s request?  What golf ball could be a significant event?  The more I thought about it, the more difficult the assignment became.  I rejected literally dozens of designs.  I went back through all of the patterns I drew up and saved.  I keep a list of every golf ball painted, and what happened to them.  I reviewed my list and checked it twice.

After much soul searching, I came upon the solution (Engineers are trained to find a solution, even to esoteric problems).  The context of Zuzu’s request was in the stories we wrote for the Reunion (see Summit Lawn, The).  Zuzu wanted a golf ball that tells a story.  More specifically a story of our High School antics.  Memories locked in the deep dark subconscious mind (probably better off not told?).  Once I hit upon this angle, the answer was fairly easy.  There are only 2 golf balls that could adequately tell a story, or a story significant enough to meet Zuzu’s challenge.  Both of these golf balls are still in my personal collection (the collection numbers about 30 – 35).

The golf ball I selected is the very first golf ball I ever painted.  What can better tell a story than the one that started the crazy hobby?  I located the golf ball and packed it away to give to Zuzu the next time we met.  Of course I had to tell the story while presenting the prize.  The story goes something like this:  When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one nation to...wait, wrong story...

I walked to school every day.  My path took me diagonally across Fiala fields, past both ball diamonds, and across the football practice field, and the upper half of the girls field hockey field.  Back in those days, people would hit golf balls in the field and either leave them, or lose them.  I found 1 or more golf balls every day and would put them in my pocket.  At school, I would usually show my find to anyone who would pay attention to me (all 4 of them, in a class of 158). 

One day Steve Bange commented that it looked like a “little pool ball,” if I would put a circle around the number and make it the color a pool ball is.  We happened to be looking at the number “8” golf ball, a very rare number, and a rare find.  Steve’s suggestion got me thinking about pool balls, and that night I took model paint, drew a circle around the number 8 and painted it to look just like the 8-ball in pool.  When I showed to Steve and the other 3 people, it was a great success!  I immediately started painting the complete set 1 through 15.  At some point in the process I tried a cartoon character, and found out two things:  I was really good at cartoon characters; and there was literally no limit to what I could hand paint onto a golf ball.

To date I have made over 250 golf balls, the vast majority of which I have given away.  It took Zuzu’s request to help me remember the beginning.  I am curious to see what the next 250 will look like.

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