When Lieutenant Kirk Porter deployed to Afghanistan recently, he wasn’t allowed to pack some of his favorite items: golf equipment. This week Porter’s fellow members at the Manhattan Country Club are fixing him up in a big way.
Club members have collected an estimated 3,000 used golf balls for shipment to Porter’s unit. The collection nearly fills a large cardboard box in the club’s pro shop, and will continue to grow through week’s end.
“We were just hoping to get a small copypaper box full,” remarked Diana Miller, a club staffer who has coordinated the drive. “We had that in three hours.”
The balls will be shipped to the air base at which Porter is stationed, and used for recreation by the soldiers and airmen there.
They can hit them with clubs donated by the good people of Callaway, with whom Porter had first been in touch. The only problem was that when the clubs arrived, there was nothing to hit.
Since the air base has no golf course, Miller expects that most will only be hit once. “They want to be able to hit them 200 yards, and in the sand there you probably won’t be able to find your ball” after that, she said.
The golf ball recruitment effort began when Porter messaged his significant other from Afghanistan remarking that while Callaway had provided the clubs, they had not included any balls. She contacted course superintendent Mark McCain, who got the ball rolling, so to speak.
Dave Kelley, club manager, estimates that more than 3,000 used balls have been collected in less than a week since the drive began. It continues through Friday.
The drive’s very success has created a separate problem: how to ship several thousand used golf balls to Afghanistan. A golf ball only weighs about 1.6 ounces, but multiply that by 3,000 and you have a 300-pound delivery. The Chamber of Commerce has volunteered to donate a half dozen flat rate Postal Service boxes, but that will barely make a dent in the supply.
Kelley said those that cannot be shipped to Porter’s unit in Afghanistan will be sent to other military units, and some may also be donated to the First Tee program at Colbert Hills.