In September of 2019, while walking between the 17th and 18th greens at Glendoveer West here in Portland, something unexceptional happened. After a tough first poke that led to a short downhiller, the inevitable 3-putt left me sore and absentminded. My ball marker — a metal version of Jones Sports Co.'s "Birdie" design — slipped out of my pocket.
Of course, I only realized this while putting my hands back in my pocket after teeing off on No. 18, a 185 yard slap to an equally frustrating green guarded by two devilish frontside bunkers. Running back to the 17th green was unavoidable, and so too was the result. Somewhere between the trees dividing the two holes, amongst the running trail and driving range balls, my marker had disappeared into the ether.
I was shit out of luck. I felt like shit, too. I loved that Jones marker. I played it at Glendoveer, my home course, dozens of times after purchasing it earlier that summer. Its weight, finish, coloring, and concept was something that spoke to me. It wasn't overly flashy, but it had great details. It was thick and heavy without being too thick and heavy. It was reasonably priced for what you got in return.
So I searched.
I tried finding ball markers I liked, scouring the web for every little company I could that might make something that felt like me. Most were too big for my liking, too thick to be used without calling overt attention to myself on the green. Putting is an isolated, personal part of the game of golf. Golf ball markers just seemed to be getting bigger and flashier and with everyone knowing their cost, they were ostentatious either by design or reputation.
When I did seem to find one I liked, it was always either out of stock or at a price point that I couldn't see spending on a mark, for many reasons. I'd also ordered a few whose quality weren't matching that of their online photos.
That's when the idea for Matchstick started alight, far in the back of my mind.
I spent the better part of 2020 thinking about how ridiculous it was that I couldn't just find the golf ball marker I wanted — a calavera, or Mexican sugar skull. Some companies made versions, but they didn't fit me either in style, size, or price. Eventually, as the holidays of 2020 came upon us I thought, "Hell, I'm just going to start drawing my own."
Now, here we are.
So much has happened since that fateful Saturday some two years ago. More than I ever could have imagined, to be frank. I have my own Sugar Skull golf ball marker, along with so many others that people have been so generous as to speak kindly of. Members of this little community we're building have started their own collections of Matchstick ball markers, something I can't quite mentally grasp just yet. It's been a whirlwind since July, and there's so much more to come that I struggle with the anxiety of anticipation.
Now Matchstick is not just an online retailer, but in its first brick-and-mortar shop as well. We recently were able to put four select golf ball markers — Tape Measure, Wood Tiger, Orange Creamsicle, and Floppy Disk — in a display case right next to the register at Glendoveer's pro shop.
It was the first place I wanted Matchstick to be, and the first place I asked. Perhaps to my detriment, I made sure that no real conversation about Matchstick in stores happened before I knocked on the door to Head PGA Pro Andrew Hein's office this summer.
Now we're selling ball marks to the very people I've played with the most — the ones we've cheered for after seeing a great approach shot from a fairway over. The random singles we've been paired with. The guys waving us through and praising us when we, stunningly, hit our only good drive of the day while playing through a slower group.
Matchstick was born at Glendoveer. It only felt right to have it take its first steps there, too. And while I eventually did get another one of those Birdie markers — Jones had an extra one lying in a drawer somewhere — every time I walk from No. 17 green to No. 18 tee part of me is looking, out of the corner of my eye, for a glint of chrome and color from beneath the pine straw and barkdust. Maybe someday I'll find it, covered in mud and missing my touch.
Until then, I'll just have to keep making my own.