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A 90-year-old man is selling his enormous collection of golf balls for charity

By Daniel Wilco
Published on

We all know the person who usually ends a round with more golf balls in the bag then he or she started with. It's one of the more underrated parts of the game. You hit a wayward drive into the woods, go in after it, and lo and behold, a few extra balls are waiting for you in the brush. Who can turn down abandoned golf balls?

Not us and certainly not R.J. Smith.

Smith has collected more than 70,000 golf balls in his life, and hasn’t paid for a single one. Now, he's ready to sell them all.

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The story of the 90-year-old man was first told by Minnesota’s Kare 11. After 80 years of gathering, the station says, Smith is ready to part with his collection.

It started when Smith got his first caddy job at 11 years old. Then later, it continued with Smith’s wife, who played a whole lot at the Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester, Minnesota. 

"He’s been out there since day one," said Mike Manahan, the head pro at Northern Hills. "The course opened in ’76, and he’s been here ever since."

While he did play occasionally, Smith preferred spending his time hunting for lost balls in the woods. Manahan said Smith used to spend an average of two to three hours per day searching the rough for lost treasure, but some days were as short as 15 minutes.

"He has a deal where if he walks halfway up the hill and doesn’t find 5 balls, he turns around," Manahan said. "If he finds five, he keeps going."

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Now, milk crates full of unique golf balls — no two in his collection are the same — are piled to the ceiling of a shed in his backyard.

But Smith is finally ready to give up the chase, and get rid of the thousands of balls. He plans to donate all the proceeds to charity. We've contacted him to find out more about his collection, including how he plans to sell it. We'll update this story when we find out.

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