'Golf Ball Man' in Dubuque is staple of warm weather - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Golf Ball Man' in Dubuque is staple of warm weather

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At 1410 North Grandview Avenue in Dubuque, Clete Meyer sells the used golf balls he hunts and cleans. At 1410 North Grandview Avenue in Dubuque, Clete Meyer sells the used golf balls he hunts and cleans.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

It's a sure sign of warm weather in Dubuque, when buckets of golf balls appear on the front lawn of 1410 North Grandview Avenue.

The home belongs to Clete Meyer, who hunts, cleans and sells used golf balls.

"These are like crystals. These are hard to come by," Meyer said Tuesday afternoon, picking three pastel-colored golf balls out of a bucket sitting in his yard.

Ever since buying this house seven years ago, Meyer has sold used golf balls on his lawn during the warm months.

"They're like brand new, no marks on them," Meyer said. "Five dozen for 20 dollars."

This 77-year-old hunts for stray balls in the woods at Lacoma Golf Course in East Dubuque, Ill. He said the owners give him permission and he hunts only occasionally, though he's at Lacoma nearly every morning for coffee.

"Every one of them golf balls I wash with a toothbrush," Meyer said, standing next to his basement sink, which he has turned into a golf ball-cleaning station.

After cleaning them and sorting them by brand and quality, Meyer puts the golf balls out front for sale.

So far, he said, 2014 has been a sluggish year for sales.

"Business is pretty slow," he said. "There ain't that many golfers out there, the economy is bad."

Meyer isn't hurting for inventory, however. He figures he has nearly 14,000 used golf balls in his home right now.

"There's 400 in each one of them boxes there," he said, gesturing to a floor-to-ceiling shelf filled with cardboard boxes.

Boxes and buckets of golf balls litter his basement and living room.

"If my wife was alive, she'd say, 'Get them golf balls out of here, take them upstairs,'" Meyer said.

His wife, however, died three years ago.

"Three years is-- I still have a little bit of problem with that," Meyer said, introspectively. "I just (went) over to the grave, talking to her yesterday, but she-- yeah. That's what happens when you get old."

Another part of getting old, for Meyer, has been cancer, which he beat twice.

"I had 14 inch of my colon taken out about three years ago, and then two years ago I had my esophagus all taken out, and they put my stomach up and tied it up here," he said, gesturing to the base of his neck. "Far as I know, I'm cancer free."

Age isn't keeping this businessman from operating his outdoor used golf ball emporium.

"I just need a few balls," customer Mike Bahl told Meyer Tuesday afternoon, as he approached the lawn. "I got golf league tonight, so I better pick out something to put in the woods."

Customers appreciate Meyer's operation because they get a deal on golf balls.

"I can come here 10 times for dozens, for what I could go buy one (dozen) for at the store," Bahl said.

Meyer likes selling golf balls because it nets him extra cash for when he goes golfing or to the casino. He said it also helps him pay some of his property tax.

But mostly, he said, "It's my hobby."

He is open for business at the northeast corner of North Grandview Avenue and Loras Boulevard in Dubuque any time his "Cletus's Golf Balls" sign and buckets of balls are sitting out on his front lawn.

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