As a kid, one of my favorite golf-related activities was finding balls and hawking them. It started out small, with the usual hunting the tall grasses on the 9-hole muni behind my house, progressed to swamp digging, and found it's model-of-efficiency using a rowboat and ball retriever to grab balls by the bushel from a lake bordering the 4th hole.
More than thirty years later, and I hadn't used a ball retriever again.
Like Mark Calcavecchia punishing a "bad" putter by dragging it behind the car for miles after a slew of Sunday 3-putts, I figured any ball hit that far in the pond wasn't worth that much effort.
Sure, I use my Vokey 58 degree to pick a ball out of mud or shallow water when taking a drop, but not a ball retriever.
So maybe I wasn't punishing the ball after all. I just didn't want to be seen carrying, or even using a ball retriever.
That all changed a month or so ago while playing a tournament on the fun courses of Mesquite, Nevada. You see, I was down to my last Pro-V1.
Facing a reachable par-5, I moved off it looking for a few extra yards, never got back to my left side and blocked that last ball down the right edge of what I thought was still fairway. Approaching in the cart, I saw my shiny white pellet with the Stocker Cup logo, a very reachable 10 feet off shore.
"Anyone have a ball retriever?" I rhetorically asked, having seen one of the guys use one a few holes ago.
And there it was. Probably the nicest model on the market. Aluminum, lightweight, telescoping way beyond what I even needed. The little ball cup was orange, and the grip was, dare I say, almost as tacky as a Lamkin! (Let's see, I can get all of our major sponsors in if I tell you the shaft wasn't a Project-X.)
I got the ball on first scoop, and went on my way.
But not before my retriever-loaner's cart mate managed to throw in the only ball retriever joke everyone knows:
"I would have loaned you mine, but it's in the shop getting re-gripped."