Monday, December 30, 2013

TOP STORY >> Golf balls carved into roses

Chuck Whalin of Cabot masterfully carves golf balls into small works of art. A longtime woodworker, he began carving golf balls while recovering from a broken foot after reading about the craft in a magazine. He forms many of them into roses, but he also makes Christmas ornaments and even Razorback mascots in football helmets.

Leader staff writer

A broken foot kicked Chuck Whalin of Cabot into his new hobby — carving golf balls.

Whalen said he read about the craft in a magazine about five years ago while recovering from the injury, which occurred after he tilled his garden and jumped off the back of his truck several times.

But the retired engraver and Jacksonville High School graduate isn’t new to carving. Before his golf ball creations, Whalin transformed wood into works of art.

Most of his golf ball pieces are roses, with a tee as the stem and a filled golf ball half as the base.

Whalin has become a master at peeling back and cutting the white outer shell of a golf ball with a hand tool to make that layer look like the leaves that surround the bases of flowers.

Then Whalin meticulously shapes the colored core of the golf ball until it resembles a rose that is not fully bloomed.

He said, “None of them look exactly alike, even if they’re the same color. You get started and they take on a life of their own.”

The carver has a list that matches golf ball brands to the colors they use so he knows that before he starts carving.

When Whalin first took up the craft, one his friends was dying from cancer. He gave her a golf ball rose to cheer her up.

Since then, Whalin has been giving his creations away to friends, family and people who attend his church, Faith Missionary Baptist in Cabot.

He added that intensive care units don’t allow real flowers, but his golf ball roses are allowed and they brighten up the patients’ rooms.

“People seem to enjoy them,” Whalin said.

He tried to sell the carved golf balls on eBay but they didn’t garner a single bid.

So Whalin doesn’t accept money for his pieces, and he carves when he feels like it.

“It’s relaxing, but you’ve got to be in the mood for it,” Whalin said.

It takes about an hour and a half to carve a golf ball, he continued.

But, Whalin added, he can “knock ’em out quicker” if he carves a lot of golf balls at the same time.

And roses aren’t the only things the golf balls are good for.

Whalin said he’s carved Christmas ornaments and a few sports-themed golf balls, including a Razorback hog with the white shell resembling a football helmet and face mask.

Whalin grew up in Jacksonville because his father worked at Little Rock Air Force Base. Whalin and his wife moved to Cabot 40 years ago

They have a daughter, a son and five grandchildren, ages 14 months to 16 years.

Whalin has carved several of the golf balls into Razorback mascots using the shell for the helmet and a face mask. He spends 90 minutes or less carving each ball.