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Walking through Douglas Williams’ garage is like walking through a golf museum.
Dozens and dozens of golf bags full of clubs line one wall, and more bags and more golf clubs lie throughout the garage.
Near another wall is a white bucket full of used golf balls, at least 100. A smaller bucket is full of more golf balls. Stacks of egg cartons also contain dozens of golf balls.
At one time, Williams, 80, had many more golf balls. But he recently donated “a little over 1,100” to The First Tee of Brunswick County. He also donated five full sets of used clubs, with the golf bags. He donated them in the name of his granddaughter Dashsa, who, he said, is autistic.
Al Arrigoni, executive director of The First Tee of Brunswick County, said the donation was appreciated.
“As we utilize the positive inherent values of the game to promote character education in our county youth,” Arrigoni said, “it is important that our participants have proper equipment when learning about or being introduced to the game. We have enjoyed tremendous success with equipment donations from the community. Youngsters who are in need of equipment are given the equipment for their use.”
Donations are always welcomed, he said. Anyone interested in making a donation may call 754-5288.
Williams is a member of Sandpiper Bay, where he plays “at least” twice a week in the men’s league.
Although his handicap is now 20, when he was younger and living in New York, he was the Green Ridge Golf Club champion four straight years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he said. As a club champion, he and other New York club champions played in the Eisenhower Tournament, and one of the years the tournament was played at the renowned Winged Foot Golf Course, Williams said. Another year it was at the Westchester Country Club. His best finish, he said, was fourth.
At least a dozen trophies line a shelf in this de facto golf museum. Ask which trophy Williams is most proud of, and he’ll respond, “All of them.”
But it was not by playing golf that Williams collected all those golf balls. (At least 100 of those donated golf balls, Williams noted, were from golfing friend Harvey Stratton.)
“I worked for Sandpiper Bay in maintenance,” Williams said. “I was mowing fairways and rough, and I’d see them. You’d get off the tractor and pick them up.”
He did maintenance work for nearly five years in the 1990s, and the balls golfers had lost were often in the path of Williams’ mowers.
“Over the years, I accumulated them,” he said.
Thousands of them. One hole was a gold mine of lost golf balls. During an annual trim of some rugged shrubbery near the eighth tee, he found 310 golf balls.
“There are five bushes there,” he said, “and people wouldn’t go in the (bushes) because they’d get scratched.”
As the golf balls accumulated in his garage, Williams pondered what to do with them.
“I was thinking about of it for years,” he said. “I just never got around to it. Then The First Tee came (into the county). So I just took it up there on my own.”
Habits are hard to quit, so Williams still collects golf balls. Those balls most likely will be part of a future donation to some organization. But some golf balls Williams keeps, the balls with unique logos on them. One such collection of golf balls with colorful logos is proudly kept in a glass case.
Williams also collects putters.
“I have probably 135 putters,” he said. “I go to garage sales and buy different stuff. There might be one there that I like.”
Williams’ prized collection is a full set of Ping clubs he bought in 1958. His collection also includes a set of PGA clubs, complete with persimmon woods. The clubs, about 50 years old, look new. And a golfer could still a play a round of golf with them, Williams said. To prove his point, he takes the driver—with its distinctive reddish brown look—tees up a golf ball and swings at it with the club. Williams arcs a perfect drive into a field behind his house.
Williams, who has been retired since 1998, also is proud of his three years in the armed forces during the years immediately following World War II. When he was in basic training, the war was still going on. He never saw combat action, but in 1947 he was part of the occupation forces in Japan.
“I spent 17 months over there,” he said. “I was an airplane and engine mechanic. When a plane broke down, I fixed it. I started with the B-24.”
He also worked on the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first operational jet fighter in the United States, and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
“That was a tough plane,” Williams said about the P-47. “It would carry six 500-pound bombs, and it had (eight) machine guns. It had quarter-inch steel plate all the way around it. That was really some plane.”
Life now is less hectic. Besides doing some gardening, Williams keeps busy with golf. And if you have ever lost a golf ball at Sandpiper Bay, call Douglas Williams. There’s a good chance he may have found it.
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.