Even though he is trying to be low key, Barry Gibbons still has moments when fellow golfers approach him.
“ ‘Are you the guy?’ they ask me,” said Gibbons. “Then they usually follow it up with, ‘are you the crazy guy?’ ”
To some who know his quest, Barry Gibbons may indeed seem slightly deranged. It’s a diagnosis others may second when they finish reading this story.
Yet a few weeks from now, Barry Gibbons will have the best tale: The one about the year he played and played and played golf until he set a new Guinness World Record.
As of last Tuesday morning, Gibbons, a Ridgefield resident since 2000, had played 565 rounds of golf in 2016. That total put him far ahead of pace to top the previous record of 611 rounds, set in 2010 by a 64-year-old retired insurance company executive on a course in Las Colinas, Texas.
Gibbons started his pursuit in January at a course in Austin, Texas, where he and his family have a second home. It was at that course last year that Gibbons first learned about the existing record.
“The pro down there and three other people had set a record for most rounds by a foursome in a day. When I went to look it up, I came across the 611 record for rounds in a year,” said Gibbons, who walks and carries his clubs in order to satisfy Guinness’ standards for the mark. “I was recently retired (after 30-plus years at IBM) and looking for something to do, so my first thought was ‘I can do that.’ ”
Playing nearly three rounds per day in Austin, Gibbons completed 200 rounds during the first three months of the year. He added another 150 rounds before heading north to Ridgefield on June 1 and continuing his pursuit at the Ridgefield Golf Course, where he averages two rounds per day.
“I was able to go off at 7 a.m. in Austin and usually play the first round by myself,” said Gibbons, who once finished a wind-aided three rounds in six-and-a-half hours. “But the course is crowded here. I can’t go off as a single, and there is no such thing as a quick round. Sometimes it takes up to five hours.”
Along the way, Gibbons estimates that he has played with more than 500 people, including former NBA referee Ronnie Nunn and ex-NFL head coach Ron Meyer. “That’s been one of the best aspects,” said Gibbons. “I’ve met a lot of cool people.”
Gibbons has also covered a lot of ground. As of this week, he had walked more than 4,100 miles, a distance superior to that of the earth’s radius (3,959 miles).
“The golf isn’t the hard part,” said Gibbons, “it’s the walking. My biggest expense is golf shoes — I’ve used 11 pairs.”
Other numbers of note: Gibbons has spotted more than 1,000 lost golf balls and collected around 700 of them; he’s used one set of clubs but had to replace a few driver shafts; his low score for a round is 69; he once used the same ball for 125 straight holes; and his fastest time for completing nine holes is 49 minutes.
On a few occasions, Gibbons has been benefactor and victim of golf’s vicissitudes.
“I had one day where I shot rounds of 72, 74 and 75. Then the next day I didn’t break 80,” said Gibbons. “Another time I had eight pars and a birdie on the back nine at the Ridgefield Golf Course. Fourteen hours later, I played the same nine holes and had eight bogeys and a par.”
Of the many inquires he receives, Gibbons said a majority relate to his home life.
“People think I must be divorced or have a wife that doesn’t like me,” he said. “But my wife, Joy, has been incredibly supportive. She put together a website (breakthegolfrecord.com) for me, and I’ve played more rounds with her this year than anyone else. And if she needs me, she knows where to look. The Ridgefield Golf Course is just three minutes from our house and I’m always there.”
When Gibbons plays his record-breaking 612th round, it will likely take place at the Valley Country Club in Colorado with his 82-year-old father, a member of the club for more than 50 years. “He introduced me to the game,” said Gibbons about his dad. “I think it would be special to have him there that day.”
For those questioning Gibbons’ sanity, there is more supporting evidence: He plans to keep playing, even after breaking the record.
“I want to see how far I can go,” he said. “I’m trying to get to 850 rounds.”
Someday, perhaps, another golfer will attempt to play more than that in one year. That person will have to be crazy. Definitely.