Take dive into drink, spend time in the clink


Golfers are free to stock water hazards, but season is closed on withdrawals

May 12, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

Hit a golf ball into the pond and you have to take a one-stroke penalty.

Fish a golf ball out of the pond and you might be facing a six-month penalty.

John Collinson is.

For 10 years, Collinson made ends meet by diving for lost balls in England and selling them for 20 cents apiece. But after police caught him on a midnight expedition last August at Whetstone Golf Course with 1,158 balls, he was arrested on theft charges. Last month, the Leicester Crown Court jailed him for half a year.

Collinson was let out on appeal early this month, but not before his sentence provoked a public outcry, making the 36-year-old father of two a cause celebre.

Lindsay Hoyle, who represents Collinson's hometown of Chorley, raised the case in the House of Commons and urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to look into it.

The diver's girlfriend, Annette Jolly, has given interviews pleading for his release.

"It is amazing. People mug grannies, steal, attack others and get less [jail time] than someone who is making a legitimate living for themselves and hurting no one," she told The Daily Telegraph.

Collinson, who fills out tax returns on his findings, makes roughly $21,500 a year through his odd job. His haul is bought by companies such as UK Lakeballs, which sells millions of balls worldwide every year on the Internet.

Pro golfer Colin Montgomerie, defending Collinson, was quoted in The Daily Mail as saying it's a case of "finders keepers."

In other words, abandoned property.

Arm robbery

Someone stole the $15,000 artificial limb that a golfer known as the "One-Armed Bandit" needs for charity matches.

The custom-made golfing arm was in Larry Alford's sport utility vehicle in Spring, Texas, when it was taken from an apartment complex in early March.

Alford, 28, was a promising amateur golfer before he lost his arm below the elbow 10 years ago in a car wreck. Since then, he has taken on able-bodied golfers in charity fund-raising exhibitions around Texas.

By now, Alford figures he'll never see his arm again.

"Someone either took it to Galveston or crossed the border into Mexico," he guesses. "Or it could just be at the bottom of a lake somewhere."

Where's John Collinson when you need him?

Not for glove or money

Ruben Rivera's theft of then-teammate Derek Jeter's glove during spring training reminded the Associated Press' Jim Litke of a line by catcher-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker:

"My best year as a ballplayer was 1965, when I made $21,000 - and $17,000 of that came selling other players' equipment."

When news of Rivera's crime broke, comedian David Letterman said: "You know what this means? They might have to call up Winona Ryder from Columbus."

Would he take an Ed Ott?

An armed man in a ski mask entered a sports card store this month in McKees Rocks, Pa., restrained the owner and instead of money, demanded Roberto Clemente baseball cards.

"He said, `I don't want the cash. I want the cards,' " Robinson Township Patrolman Mike Butya said.

The cards, about 18 of them that depict the Hall of Famer, are valued at about $5,000 total.

Drafting for need

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the Oakland Raiders drafted with a plan: "In the sixth round, for example, they picked a criminal justice major, San Diego State running back Larry Ned.

"Smart move, draft someone who can help you deal with your previous years' draft picks."

Making a defensive stand

A would-be robber at an apartment in Newport Beach, Calif., was thwarted last month when one of the three roommates slugged him with a Miami Dolphins helmet.

Trojans slugger also an ace

In a recent baseball win at Washington State, Bill Peavey homered twice - with the second ball bouncing onto a golf course.

When a Cougars manager went to retrieve the ball, golfers showed him that it landed in a cup on the putting green.

That's one ball Collinson had no chance at.

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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