9-year-old's golf ball business is booming
PRATTVILLE – Lemonade stands, household chores and mowing yards are just a few ways kids make some spending money. but for one nine-year-old girl, her method is both creative and lucrative at the same time.
Lexi Porter, who attends Prattville Christian, spends much of her free time scouring the rough with her dad Thomas looking for lost golf balls around the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill to earn her walking around money.
A day at the course for Lexi might include a golf lesson and then seeking out unclaimed errant shots scattered around the 54-hole facility. Once the father-daughter return home with the day’s spoils, young Lexi hunkers down and begins the process of cleaning and packaging the balls to sell.
In addition to donating a portion of the sales proceeds to charity, she has enough left over to pay for her golf lessons and she recently purchased a virtual reality headset that cost over $400.
“I enjoy looking for the balls, but the grass kind of itches my legs and pokes my skin,” Lexi said recently while on spring break. “My favorite part is putting stickers on the packages.”
So far, Lexi’s Golf Balls has shipped orders to 24 states. After starting small with just what they found and what others gave them, now Thomas and his daughter have engaged a golf ball supplier to keep up with the demand.
It started with feeding fish
The idea was born from feeding fish, Thomas said.
“It started in 2021 and I would take Lexi and one of her friends to the driving range. When I was done, we would go down and feed the fish,” he said. “Then, they said, ‘Let’s go find some golf balls,’ and we started finding golf balls.”
With both Lexi and her friend about to take begin taking lessons, it was off to the races in search of those errant shots abandoned by frustrated golfers.
In no time, the Porters’ garage garage was filled with found golf balls. That’s when the idea hit – sell the balls to help pay for those golf lessons.
“They raised $1,000 and we started a Facebook page and it was good,” Thomas Porter said. “We thought that it was awesome and that we had just taught them about work.”
Eventually, Lexi was in business on her own. With 54 holes at Capitol Hill and full tee sheets, there are plenty of lost golf balls to be found.
Lexi Porter: ‘There are golf balls everywhere’
“There are golf balls everywhere,” said Thomas, an avid golfer who is retired from Buffalo Rock and now works part-time for Lamar Advertising. “People liked the concept of a 9-year-old girl working toward something. She continues her golf lessons and she still pays for them through her golf ball sales. Anything golf related comes out of her golf ball money.”
There’s more to Lexi’s Golf Balls than just earning spending money, though. Thomas and his wife are using the endeavor to teach their daughter about philanthropy. In 2022, proceeds from Lexi’s Golf Balls sponsored golf lessons for four children.
“We were able to introduce them to golf – it was free for the parents, and the kids got to find out if they liked golf,” Thomas said. “I want to teach her about giving. There are people less fortunate and we need to help them. Let’s share the love.”
This year, Thomas suggested to Lexi that they donate a portion of her earnings to a veterans’ organization in honor of his father, whom he said “went through two years of hell with cancer.”
“The military is extremely important to me,” Thomas said. “I want to pass that on to Lexi. We always thank the military and we always run promotions for veterans around holidays.”
Reaching customers through Facebook
Initially, the Porters settled on giving a minimum of $500 – $125 per quarter – to the Gary Sinise Foundation in honor of Lexi’s grandfather – Sgt. Thomas Renfroe Porter, Ret., U.S. Army. In a recent announcement on the Lexi’s Golf Balls Facebook page, Thomas and Lexi reported their first-quarter donation was for $605 – $105 more than the minimum yearly donation.
“My dad died two weeks ago and he wasn’t able to see the end result, but we had conversations and I was able to tell him how much we were going to give in his honor before he died,” Thomas said.
No ball goes unused at Lexi’s Golf Balls, and to date she has sold more than 400 dozen balls to buyers – including Washington, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland – mostly to people who learned about the business venture through Facebook and word-of-mouth.
Once the balls are collected, Lexi and Thomas use a four-ball washer method to clean them. After that, they are separated by brand and by quality.
“If a ball is in a 3A condition, we will package it up and sell it as 3A condition for not nearly as much money,” Thomas said.
Balls not in pristine condition are sorted and put into bins based on quality and sold as well. Balls not in good enough shape to sell are cut up and used to make American flags. Every ball they acquire is used in some capacity.
“Ultimately, this is her business. I want her making decisions and I want her to come up with ideas,” Thomas said. “Everybody loves buying from a pretty 9-yr old girl who is working to pay for her own stuff. It’s just really cool – such an awesome child to do that.”
Lexi might be involved with a grown-up type business, but she’s still only 9. And what will her next purchase be with money from her golf ball business?
“Slime,” she said. “I want to get some slime.”
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
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All photos courtesy of Thomas Porter