WILLARD -- For 40 years Lavell Larsen has been keeping his eye out for golf balls.
Larsen, of Willard, said his hobby started because he used to work for Golf City and could golf for free. When he would play, he'd also pick up others' stray balls.
Four decades later, he has sold the bulk of the collection -- 30,000 balls -- to a ball refurbisher based in California.
He said his wife, Alice, was never too happy about the golf balls filling their shed and closets, so when one of his sons found a company to sell them to, he sorted out his favorites and bagged the rest to be picked up.
Although he's not a golfer, Larsen picks up golf balls everywhere. He's found them on the course, near condos for a condo association he worked for, along the roadside and on vacation.
"The best place to look was Hawaii because if you can afford to golf over there, you don't look for lost balls," he said.
While his hobby began for no real reason, Larsen said he kept going because it was good for him to get out and walk. Now he searches nearly every day and for several hours on Saturdays because it is relaxing.
"It's more of a mental therapy, and I just enjoy walking," he said. "I guess it's the little kid in me. It's better than Easter."
Larsen and his family sorted and bagged the balls for pickup, a task he said took nine hours.
He kept a few boxes of unique ones. Balls with interesting patterns or different colors are his favorites.
"Finding one of these is like pay day," he said.
Some of his grandchildren like to walk with him sometimes, he said. And when his kids were younger, one son liked finding golf balls so much he'd hit a ball into the trees and spend the game just picking up balls.
Word of his golf ball collection will surprise his friends, Larsen said. Few people outside his family know he collects them.
"Now all my friends are going to know about this crazy thing I do," he said with a laugh.