Irradiated Golf Balls
Oak Ridge Atom Industries Energized Golf Ball (1964-1968)
Yep, a mutant golf ball deformed by the ravages of radiation. To be honest, I don't know why its shape is so distorted, but it might have been because the gamma irradiation changed the tension of the winding. If the irradiation was not uniform, a distorted shape might result. Just speculating.
The ball was produced/energized in the 1960s by Oak Ridge Atom Industries, Inc. which for all practical purposes, meant Clarence J. Speas. The bottom of the box notes that the company "owns and operates its own source of radioactive Cobalt-60 under AEC Byproduct License No. 41-2540-1"
This 10 curie Co-60 source was housed in a 800 lb lead shield inside a concrete block house on Speas’ 300 acre Patchwood Research Farm.
Presumably the golf ball’s treatment with Co-60 gamma rays resulted in "longer drives . . . . longer lives." The company also boasted that it was "the best (and most expensive) golf ball made in the USA today."
Oak Ridge Atom Industries
Oak Ridge Atom Industries possibly began operations as early as 1957 (1958 at the latest). They were incorporated in 1960.
From the Kingsport News (February 11, 1964), Oak Ridge Atom Industries
The Kingsport News article also reported that Atom Industries was also the first company in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to be traded publically - 73,750 shares of common stock valued at $295,000.
The company's first product seems to have been irradiated seeds (Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, January 24, 1959). Other products included “Energized Potting” soil and plants (e.g., rose bushes). Nevertheless, their most widely advertised product might have been the energized golf ball featured here. One advertisement for it (Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1967) read as follows:
Another ad (Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1968) claimed:
Sometime in 1971, the company headquarters moved to Louisville, Kentucky (Courier-Journal, June 22, 1972). The end came the following year when Food & Fibre Inc., a blueberry processing facility in Maine and the company’s sole asset, was repossessed due to a default on its mortgage. The referenced article in the Courier Journal indicated that Oak Ridge Atom Industries was “insolvent and is trying to settle with its creditors.”
As a side note, all this has a connection to Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), then known as the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS). Prior to starting his company, Speas had experienced trouble planting grass on a hillside on his property. He asked Dr. Marshall Brucer, the head of the ORINS Medical Division, for advice (Indianapolis Star, March 5, 1961). As I remember him, Brucer was willing to provide expert advice on pretty much any subject. In any event, Brucer suggested that exposing grass seeds to radiation might generate a new variety of grass that could survive on the hillside. This suggestion was the genesis of Oak Ridge Atom Industries. Another ORINS employee, Dr. Ralph T. Overman, seems to have served as the Technical Director for Oak Ridge Atom Industries.
Atomic Energy of Canada Golf Ball
The ball shown below was produced by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in the mid 1990s. It was irradiated by an electron beam, probably the IMPELA Electron Beam Processor.
The box seen above, empty unfortunately, once held three golf balls that were irradiated in an electron beam by Acsion Industries in Pinawa Canada. Quoting one description "The process - originally developed by AECL Research Scientists - crosslinks the atoms in the golf ball's rubber core, creating longer molecular chains. Experiments show that the Atomic Golf Ball travels up to 10 % further on drives."
Apparently these balls were handed out as souvenirs to participants at the 1995 G-7 Summit Meeting in Halifax.
Some additional information can be found in a US Patent application (0020025862) assigned to Spalding Sports: