PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Every year Tony Sarno and his cousin Dennis Seibel drive down from Chicago to escape the cold weather and get the autographs of golfers to add to their collections.
This year the atmosphere has changed considerably – Tiger and Rory are here.
Woods and McIlroy are making their first ever appearance at the Valspar Championship, and the collectors are ready.
“This is the most people there’s ever been,” said Sarno under the beaming Florida sun Tuesday morning. “It’s a good thing.[Golfers] are the friendliest, friendliest signers for sure,” said Sarno. “There’s not a lot of competition either, a lot of people want selfies and stuff like that.”
Seibel and Sarno attempt to get a ball signed from every passing golfer. They plan on staying out until either all 100 they arrived with are signed or they’re too burnt.
Sarno will place the signed balls into empty egg cartons before travelling back home. The signatures of elite players will be pulled from the egg cartons and set aside.
“I probably have 500 golf balls so the good ones I’ll put in little plastic containers. I’ve got a label maker at home so I’ll put their names on there,” said Sarno.
The golf balls worthy of receiving their own plastic container will be showcased in Sarno’s 1,300 square foot basement devoted to the signatures of athletes. His prized possession is a football signed by a legendary running back.
“Walter Payton. Being from Chicago Payton’s probably the big one,” said Sarno. “It’s who we like the most. I mean he passed away early so … kinda stinks.”
They plan to return again next year, attending some spring training games but focusing on the Valspar offers while getting away from Chicago.
“I’ll take sunburn over the snow any day.”