Except when appearing as the unlikely written amount on a check, 878 is usually presented just like that — in its cold, bland and truncated numerical form.
But in a story about Barry Gibbons, shortcuts feel tacky.
When Gibbons, a 57-year-old Ridgefield resident, scooped his ball out of the 18th hole on New Year’s Eve on a course in Austin, Texas, it marked his final round of 2016.
Round number eight hundred and seventy-eight.
No one has played that much golf in a calendar year while carrying their clubs and not using a golf cart. No one has even come close. No one, in fact, has played that many rounds of golf in one year while using a cart.
Gibbons broke the previous Guinness World Record of 611 rounds (without using a cart) way back in September. But then he kept going, playing more than 250 additional rounds before his final 18 on New Year’s Eve at Flintrock Falls, one of four courses at The Hills of Lakeway, a private club in Austin, where he and his wife, Joy, have a second house.
In obliterating the record, Gibbons walked more than 6,300 miles, took over 12.5 million steps, and burned nearly 1.6 million calories. He averaged almost 2.5 rounds of golf per day in 2016, often playing three rounds each day.
After taking an early retirement following a 30-year career at IBM, Gibbons began his pursuit last January at The Hills of Lakeway. He continued the quest at the Ridgefield Golf Course this spring, summer and early fall before he and Joy headed back to Texas in October.
The record-breaking moment came on Sept. 18, when Gibbons — accompanied by his father, Edward — played his 612th round at his dad’s club in Aurora, Colo. That eclipsed the existing Guinness mark of 611 rounds, set by Richard Lewis, a retired insurance executive, in 2010.
“Little did I know when I undertook this challenge, just how much effort, dedication, and commitment would be required to get across the line,” wrote Gibbons that day on the website (breakthegolfrecord.com) that his wife created. “Until one undertakes an extreme challenge like this, you just can’t appreciate how difficult it can be. Needless to say, I have tremendous respect for Richard Lewis and appreciate the inspiration his record provided to me.”
Several highlight moments came after Gibbons had broken the record. A few days later, he played a round with Lewis at the latter’s course in Las Colinas, Texas. To honor Arnold Palmer, who died in late September at age 87, Gibbons played 90 holes (five rounds) on Oct. 4, the day Palmer was buried. And on Nov. 1, Gibbons got a hole-in-one (during round #726) on the 14th hole at The Hills, another of the four courses at The Hills of Lakeway.
Even a trip back to Connecticut for Thanksgiving didn’t deter Gibbons: He got in 11 rounds in nine days at the waterlogged Ridgefield Golf Course. “The good news is there was no one else crazy enough to tough it out, so he could keep a good pace,” wrote Joy on the website. “Sloshy, but timely … and yes, he did catch a chest cold.”
Gibbons played his 800th round on Dec. 7 and his 850th round on Dec. 22. Nine days later, with his wife and three of their four children waiting on the 18th hole, Gibbons ended the year with his final round.
Number eight hundred and seventy-eight.