Teed off: Thieves carry off oversized golf ball

SportsRyder CupJenny McCarthyChicago SkylineeBay Inc.Ronald McDonald House Charities

How do you lose a three-foot golf ball?

Tee it up on a green pedestal along North Michigan Avenue at the river -- in a row of other oversized golf balls promoting the Ryder Cup.

The ball, decorated with the Chicago skyline and bearing the signature of actress Jenny McCarthy, was reported stolen over the weekend from just north of the bridge, according to police.

The theft initially prompted organizer of the exhibit to place two other balls -- featuring the Blackhawks and the Bears -- indoors for safekeeping. As of Monday night, however, the Blackhawks ball was back outside on display after its owner secured it with chains.

“We are upset about it, of course,’’ said exhibit spokesman Eric Schmidt. “It’s an empty spot, so we’re certainly disappointed. We did everything to try and secure them as best we could.

"They weigh about 30 pounds but it takes a little working to get them out of the base,’’ he said. “The most disappointed person is the artist, Jeff Budzban."

Budzban, 57, of Wildwood, Ill., said the theft was “terrible” and he hadn’t heard of any arrests as of Monday evening.

“It’s just a sad thing that somebody would take it,’’ Budzban said, especially since the proceeds were going to charity.

The artist said he used a lot of glitter on the piece which was crafted from molded plastic, named “Chicago’s Best” and that, along with McCarthy’s signature, is likely what attracted the thief.
 
Budzban, who has another painted ball near the John Hancock building, said he believes it won’t take authorities long to track down such a recognizable item. He believes it's probably in someone's back yard or basement.

“Somebody is eventually going to run across it and the guy who did take it, he’s going to feel like a schmuck because somebody is going to approach him,’’ Budzban said. “You know he can’t sell it on eBay or Craiglist – you have a 3-to-4-foot ball.’’

The organizers plan to sell the 50 golf balls that have been scattered along downtown for the Ryder Cup golf tournament, with the money going to the Ronald McDonald House and the Illinois PGA Foundation. The one that was stolen was valued at $2,000 but was expected to bring in a lot more during the sale.

“The one that was taken would have been sponsored and would have gone for $5,000. It’s $5,000 out of the pocket of the charity,’’ Schmidt said.

Police were called early Sunday when a security guard from a nearby building noticed the piece missing.  The guard told police surveillance video would be available today, police said.

Schmidt said there have been other “frustrating’’ vandalism with the outsized golf balls in the city, mostly graffiti or people signing their own names.

Schmidt said the thief detached the ball from the base by unscrewing it.

“Where there's a will, there's a way I suppose,’’ Schmidt said.

rsobol@tribune.comTwitter:@RosemarySobol1

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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