Golf Ball Exploritorius - the unexplained and incurable desire to search for other peoples' lost golf balls in the midst of a round.
I'll admit it; I suffer from this disease, which I just coined. It's an affliction that has netted me numerous eye rolls and shouts of, "Come on, we're two holes behind," from my playing partners as they watch me hunched over a fairway lake's edge with my extendable pole/plastic scoop thingy that can rescue balls from their watery graves.
"Just a second,"' I reply, while making one last lunge for a muddy Callaway.
I will venture into wooded areas, not knowing or caring that poison ivy may be the most populous plant, in search of balls. I will lift the lower branches of Desert Hackberry with a five iron, a technique I may rethink after recently seeing a six-foot snake slither across a cart path in Phoenix and disappear into said foliage.
I do not assume this hunter role because I'm too cheap to actually purchase golf balls; rather I just get an arcane thrill knowing that I found something another golfer failed to locate. Now I know how Survivor contestants must feel when they discover the Immunity Idol. Actually, they must discover the Idol multiple times so cameras can film it from every conceivable angle.
I try to picture the ball's original owner. Was the one I recently found adorned with a Chicago Bulls logo hit by Michael Jordan? Should I email his Airness and say, "What's it worth to you?" Same goes for the Berkshire Hathaway ball. Missing something, Warren Buffett?
But my zeal to revel in other golfers' misfortunes is what led me to balk one Father's Day when my wife presented me with a dozen golf balls. At first I was overjoyed to unwrap the rectangular-shaped box and see what was neatly packaged inside.
"Thanks, honey. A dozen balls," I said.
"They aren't just any balls," she replied. "Take one out."
I did as instructed. And then I saw that each one contained not a logo, but a photo.
Of my wife.
She had sent a picture of herself to one of those online companies that will slap a jpeg image on to any tangible item - coffee mugs, keychains, chessboards and blankets just to name a few. The photo was poorly cropped and her angelic face was now pockmarked with golf ball dimples, but it was her. The company calls it "personalization." Looking at the golf ball, words failed me.
"You don't like them, do you?" she said, noticing my alarmed look
"No," I replied. "I hate them. Because I love you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"If I use these, I'll be searching for you forever," I said. "I can't abandon you in the woods. I can't drown you in an alligator-infested pond. Furthermore, I can't bear the thought of you careening full speed into an oak tree and then falling to the ground with a gash across your cheek. I don't want to top, hook, chunk or slice you."
"Are you that bad of a golfer?"
"You obviously haven't seen me play in awhile."
"Maybe my face will inspire you to hit it straighter."
"If that were the case, then every guy who ever played would have his wife's photo on his ball. Or in Tiger Woods' case, his mistress. And what if another golfer finds one of these balls and puts it in his bag? That's creepy."
"Well, I can't return them. So you might as well hit me; I mean, hit them."
I can't do it. Instead, I keep one ball in my office, next to our wedding photo. I take one on business trips, gently kissing it before I go to sleep. I practice short downhill putts with the other 10, for I only need to gingerly tap my wife's complexion when doing so.
And I vow never to get her a personalized recreational item containing my photo.
Although I do wonder how she'd look in a pair of yoga pants with my face on the backside.
(c) 2014 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC