Alumni Profile • Dean Deppe '73
The Gospels...and golf balls

Dean DeppeHe is a professor of New Testament at Calvin Seminary specializing in the Gospel narratives, but the walls of Dean Deppe’s ’73 study are not covered with books or maps of Palestine or pictures from the life of Jesus. They are filled with wooden racks his father made to hold Deppe’s tournament logo golf balls — 2,500 or so of them — probably the best collection of its kind in the country.

There is no incongruity here, to Deppe’s way of seeing. “I have a curious and organizing mind,” he said. “I collect and organize different interpretations of Gospel passages; I collect and organize golf balls.”

Why not collect and organize baseball cards or coins or antique bottles?

“When I was young, I played lots of sports,” Deppe explained. “I decided 15 or 20 years ago to concentrate on one sport that a person could play his whole life and find out everything I could about it.”

It would be possible, he conceded, to learn all about golf without filling a room with golf balls, but the balls serve Deppe as a learning and memory aid. Plus, being Dutch, he said, he can’t help picking up the stray balls he finds when he plays.

Deppe took up the sport in the ’70s when, as an inner-city pastor, he longed for the refreshment of quiet, green surroundings. He’d fill his bag with balls he found, especially ones stamped with the names of different country clubs. Five thousand balls later, in 1995, he decided to limit his collection to tournament balls.

There are racks for balls from the PGA, Senior PGA, and LPGA tours, the U.S. and British Opens, the Master’s and the Ryder Cup. There is a dated ball from the 1967 U.S. Open and several more from the 1970s. When he isn’t able to get — or afford — an original ball, Deppe tries to locate a commemorative issue, like his 1912 U.S. Open ball. When he isn’t able to find a commemorative ball — for the 1895 U.S. Open at Newport Golf Club, for example — he settles for a ball stamped with the logo of the course where the tournament was played; in the latter case, he’s also collected commemorative golf markers stamped with the tournament’s logo, which he displays with the course ball.

On any given day there may well be 1,000 balls for sale or trade on E-bay, Deppe reported. That’s where he’s turned recently to add to his collection. He’s made friends with other online collectors, like Ted Hoz, whose collection of 72,000 country club balls is the world’s largest. But some of Deppe’s golf balls he’s picked up free, like his commemorative ball from the first (1927) Ryder Cup, which he found in the rough of a Wisconsin course.

While the tournament balls are Deppe’s specialty, he keeps a rack here and there of others: He’s trying to get a ball from every country in the world (he’s got 72, including a ball from Russia’s only course), and a ball from each of the 100 courses Golf Digest has named the country’s best.

Deppe doesn’t spend as much time on his golf ball collection now as he once did. “I’m getting to a point where it feels like I’ve discovered most of what there is to know about golf,” he said. He gestured to his garden out the window: “I’m spending more time now on my hosta collection.”