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Wildwood Artist's 30-Pound Charity Golf Ball Stolen From Downtown Chicago

Jeff Budzban of Wildwood skillfully painted two giant golf balls to be auctioned off for the Ronald McDonald House. One was stolen from its display in front of the NBC studios on N. Michigan Avenue.

Even in Chicago, you'd think someone carrying a 30-pound golf ball depicting the downtown skyline would look awkward, if not a bit suspicious, but that's apparently what happened in the wee hours of last Friday morning.

Jeff Budzban, the Wildwood artist who designed the "Chicago Best" golf ball, one of 50 giant golf balls that have been displayed throughout Chicago to promote the 39th annual Ryder Cup Golf Tournament, is trying to find the humor in the thievery of his work, which was supposed to be auctioned off to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

"I guess someone really liked my art," he said.

"I'm disappointed, but at the same time there has been a lot of publicity (as a result) and more people have been donating to the Ronald McDonald House."

Budzban, an artist who works at Platinum Auto Body, said he and his wife Annette were attending a rooftop dinner for the artists at the Ronald McDonald House on Sept. 21 when someone said to him, "By the way, your ball looked really nice, but someone stole it."

"I thought he was joking," said Budzban.

It was no joke. The 30-pound plastic golf ball, which measures about 4 feet in diameter and took at least 40 hours to create, was no longer perched atop its tee in front of the NBC studios on North Michigan Avenue.

Budzban said he can't imagine it didn't look odd for someone to be carting it off.

The ball depicted the Chicago skyline and was autographed by actress and Chicago native Jenny McCarthy. Budzban's other golf ball design, "Under World Water," is displayed in front of the John Hancock building and has already been auctioned.

A police report was filed. Budzban believes the giant golf ball will eventually turn up.

"Whoever has it won't be able to sell it," he said, noting that if it does return, perhaps it will fetch even more at auction given the circumstances.

"We keep praying it will get returned," said Annette.

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