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Golf Ball Collector Helps Improve Lives Of City Youth

July 15, 2016
Pikesville, Md., resident Martin Glass collects golf balls, thousands of them. 

His collection of 3,500 golf balls recently overwhelmed his living room, so he had to find a new place to store them. He started collecting golf balls more than seven years ago while playing golf in Florida with a friend, who collected clubs and donated them to a Baltimore charity that helps kids in the city learn the game of golf. 

Glass's wife, Joy, had been stricken with Alzheimer's disease, and he was taking care of her. She died last March, and searching for golf balls  on Baltimore-area courses has helped him persevere through difficult times.

"It's been therapy for me, walking and working on the balls," Glass said. "It developed into a habit when I was playing. I started to accumulate them."

Glass donates the balls to First Tee of Baltimore, a youth organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people through the game of golf. First Tee helps students apply life skills to not only golf, but also to real-life situations at home or school. They are taught nine core values to help them navigate the bunkers and sand traps of life.

"I wanted to help out some of those kids that need the balls," Glass said. "I donated 78 dozen a few weeks ago and 99 dozen three years ago. I gave them a mixture of everything and made a list of what was included. At $48 a dozen, golf balls are expensive."

Glass meticulously separates, catalogs, scrubs and boxes up each ball. He places them in trays and soaks them in warm water and bleach. He maintains an extensive inventory of golf balls from the yellow practice balls to Nikes to Callaways to Titleist Pro V1s. 

"I like the Titleist Velocity," Glass said. "My favorite ball is the one that's doing good things for me on the course. I'll use it until that one final time."

His biggest haul was 280 in one day. He roams the fairways of Baltimore County courses such as Greystone, Rocky Point, Fox Hollow, The Woodlands and Diamond Ridge.

First Tee of Baltimore program director Matt Bassler appreciates the contribution. 

"We're very thankful for Mr. Glass," Bassler said. "Balls are very expensive, and this helps us run our programs at low cost for 500 kids. We use them for chipping, putting and driving, and we give them out for prizes."

Glass grew up in Baltimore. Martin and his brother Philip caddied at Forest Park as teenagers and worked in their father's General Radio record store on South Howard Street. Philip Glass learned a lot about music and became a world famous composer. Their sister is married to an ambassador. Martin owned a scaffolding company. 

"I grew up an Indian between two chiefs," Martin Glass said.

He is the reigning king of golf ball collecting in the Baltimore area and a loving husband who fed his wife three times a day for four years at the Sunrise Assisted Living facility in Pikesville, Md., before she died. Family remains a major priority, and his pleasant eccentricities are on full display at all times. 

"I send my grandchildren goofy letters to their summer camps," Glass said. "Sometimes I write them on paper plates. I also write them on the backs of puzzles and send them in pieces so they have to put them together."

The family is working on the world's largest ball made of Wikki Stix. These are the multi-colored wax sticks that look like pipe cleaners.

"We're up to 1,500 sticks," he said. "The ball weighs 55 pounds." 

Glass never played a round of golf until he had a stroke at age 60.

"The rehabilitation was to hit golf balls," Glass said. "That's when I started playing. I was a tennis player before that."

Meanwhile, the balls continue to pile up. 

"I've got 1,500 on the back porch right now waiting to be cleaned," Glass said. "They'll probably end up on the driving range."

Issue 223: July 2016