Signed Golf Ball Quest Becomes Book

Joe Galiardi, a lifetime collector, has written a book about his favorite behind-the-scenes stories of tracking down celebrities for their autographs on golf balls. He claims to have one of the largest private autographed golf ball collections in the country.

He’s chased down U.S. presidents, actors, musicians and just about every other celebrity with a connection to golf. The quest has left 74 year-old Northern California resident Joe Galiardi with an incredible collection and also plenty of interesting stories to tell. So many, it seems, that he’s been able to put together a book chronicling his efforts. "Hooked on Autographs" was recently published.

In 20 years, he’s gathered over 230 signed golf balls, starting with Arnold Palmer, who thought so much of Galiardi’s compliments that he wrote the collector a letter thanking him. Galiardi introduces readers to the behind-the-scenes excitement of tracking down celebrities for their autographs. Galiardi has gathered their personal autographs and recounts the stories that go along with the process.

"Besides enjoying my favorite tales behind the autographs, the readers will come away with a better understanding and appreciation of the art of collecting autographs," Galiardi writes on a website he started to help promote the book. He’s donating a portion of the proceeds to charity.

His collection includes dozens of big name athletes and PGA Tour stars and has been accumulated through tenacity and persistence. Galiardi even had the fortitude to return a Donald Trump signed ball for sloppiness (yes, the Donald made amends) and he continues to add to his collection. His latest quest is to snare a ball signed by US Airways pilot "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully landed a jetliner on the Hudson River early this year and received world-wide acclaim.

Not just for golf-lovers, Hooked on Autographs is intended to be an amusing story that appeals to anyone interested in what Galiardi calls the "thrill of the hunt."

Galiardi answered some questions from Rich Wolfgang.

How did you become a collector of signed golf balls?

JG: I was a born collector. At age 7, I built and collected World War II model airplanes. I went on to save marbles, comic books, stamps, and signed baseball cards. When I was about 15, my collecting days came to an abrupt end when I discovered girls. I got the collecting bug once again when I took up golf in 1986 and started collecting logo golf balls. Needing a more challenging hobby, I began collecting signed golf balls in 1989.

Who signed your first ball?

JG: Arnold Palmer. When I learned that Arnold was playing in the inaugural Transamerica Senior Championship at Silverado Country Club in Napa, California, in 1989, I drove to the famous golf resort to see Arnold in person and obtain his John Hancock. The most popular golfer of all time signed my first ball on October 25, 1989. His autograph launched my extensive collection that now totals 231 signed golf balls on display in my golf room at home in Cupertino, California.

Tell us about your book

JG: Hooked on Autographs shares my trials and triumphs of collecting autographed golf balls over the past twenty years from such notables as Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jack Lemmon, Bob Hope, and Joe Paterno, to name just a few of the many celebrities featured in my book. In sixteen spirited chapters, I describe many of my favorite tales in garnering and gathering signed golf balls from best-loved golfers, famous entertainers, notable sports figures, and U.S. presidents. With titles such as “The King,” “Chi Chi,” “Presidents of the United States,” and “Tricks of the Trade,” I share my infectious passion of collecting autographs on golf balls.

Do you have a favorite autograph?

Yes. A local newspaper reporter asked me the same question not long ago. I answered, “Arnold Palmer.” We grew up about 30 miles apart. I’m from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and Arnie’s from Latrobe. We both belong to the Golf Collectors Society. Besides signing my first golf ball, Arnie has signed two dozen other golf memorabilia items on display in my home. I might add that Chapter 11 is titled, “My Dream Eighteen.” This chapter features my favorite eighteen signed golf balls from individuals who have distinguished themselves by either achieving greatness in their profession or finding fame for accomplishing a heroic feat that will live on in the annals of sports.

I was informed that you are donating a part of your royalties to the Walter Reed Society to help the returning wounded soldiers being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Tell me more about the Society and why you chose to donate to this organization.

JG: My sister, Rose Marie Mologne, is one of the founders of the Walter Reed Society, a non-profit charitable organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Society financially assists the severely wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan while they recuperate at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. My wife, Judy, and I, visited with some of the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed on September 11, 2009, and we witnessed firsthand what these disabled soldiers and their families are going through as they try to put their shattered lives back together again. I was convinced that day I was doing the right thing to donate some of my book proceeds to these wounded servicemen and women. I’m proud to be able to financially help our heroes who have made great sacrifices for all of us.