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While ocean free-diving, two young outdoor enthusiasts discovered thousands of golf balls polluting the Monterey Bay.

Alex Weber and Jack Johnston said they removed more than 5,000 golf balls from just one cove in Carmel Bay below the Pebble Beach Golf Links course.

"The entire sea floor is just white golf balls rolling around," said Weber, who is a junior at Carmel High School.


In May the two started collecting the balls and estimate they have removed 5,000 so far.

The golf balls are in various states of deterioration, some have been smoothed by the sea, others are starting to chip, and some of the older balls have spilled their rubber band like cores.

After completing multiple free dives and collecting hundreds of pounds of golf balls the students decided it was time to do more.

"We knew we needed to make a change and be the change," Johnston said.

Some weeks ago the teens and their parents contacted the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Pebble Beach Company.

“Golf balls don’t belong in the ocean, they don’t belong in the marine sanctuary but in terms of marine debris, it’s not one as we categorize as problematic,” said Paul Michel MBNMS superintendent in an interview on Thursday.

Michel said golf balls are not as bad as other plastics, like plastic bags, nonetheless the sanctuary wants to see them cleaned up and has committed to forming a plan with the Pebble Beach Company.

“We immediately asked what can we do to help,” said Dawn Mathes with Pebble Beach about the company’s response to the teens.

MBNMS and Pebble Beach are working together to form a plan that will likely include an initial clean-up and then annual or semi-annual clean-ups to take care of future balls that miss the mark and end up in the Pacific.

Mathes said the company already picks-up golf balls on its beaches.

“We do have beachcombers who walk the beaches, the sandy beaches and the rocky beaches to clean up golf balls, and now we have assembled a team of researchers, scientists and professional divers to get out there and pick up the remaining golf balls,” she said.

Weber said Pebble Beach Company is doing a good job stepping-up to the task of removing the balls but she said she was surprised no one knew about the problem earlier.

“It is almost common sense, like you should understand that if you’re hitting a golf ball off a cliff into the ocean, it’s going to end up under the water,” she said.

Pebble Beach Company has given each of the students a $500 scholarship to The Island School, a high-school marine science and sustainability-based study abroad program in the Bahamas.

The teens are hoping to raise the rest of their tuition online through a gofundme account.


The free divers documented their six-month effort to remove as many golf balls as possible with a video: watch it below.

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