But last week, an Ironman of a different sort made a stop in the Olympic Village, and his feats landed him in the Guinness World Book of Records. He’s an incredibly fit 70-year-old golfer named Bob Kurtz, and as athletes go, Kurtz is nothing short of amazing.
Kurtz was one of the pros on the Sunbelt Senior Professional Golf Tour who played in the 54-hole Adirondack Senior Open at the Whiteface Club. During the three-day tournament, he fired rounds of 74, 74 and 72 to capture the title in the Super Senior division for players over the age of 55.
But calling Kurtz a Super Senior may be an understatement. Shooting near-par golf over the course of three days as a 70-year-old is impressive enough, but in June the Cullman, Ala. resident achieved an endeavor that seems nearly unfathomable. Over a seven-day stretch in his home state, Kurtz played 1,850 consecutive holes of golf at the Quail Creek Golf Resort.
In playing his world-record setting 103 full rounds, the pastor of 2,000-member St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church raised more that $75,000 to aid victims from the late April Alabama tornados and help fight child abuse. He started on June 4 and finished on June 11, averaging 16 hours of golf each day. During sunlit hours, he used a regular ball and switched to a glow ball when darkness prevailed.
“Physically, I wasn’t in bad shape, but my hands and feet were pretty beat up,” Kurtz recalled while relaxing in an Adirondack chair on Sept. 1 after claiming the win at the Whiteface Club. “I actually experienced a little bit of a letdown after it was all over. Not only did I set the world record for the most consecutive holes played, but I think I set the record for the most missed putts.”
In addition to playing on professional golf’s mini tours, Kurtz has been a marathon golfer over a recent stretch of years to earn the nickname “Golf’s Iron Man.” As a 66-year-old, he began raising funds by collecting donations for each hole played, which turned out to be 178 consecutive holes. During that run, the pledges doubled each time he shot his age in an 18-hole round, which turned out to be four times. In subsequent years, Kurtz continued to increase the number of consecutive holes played in his efforts to raise funds to combat child abuse, with it culminating in June’s historic undertaking.
Not only did Kurtz play 1,850 holes to set the record, he turned in an average score of 74.55 strokes per 18 holes and fired rounds under his age five times and equaled his age with 70s on four occasions. In 11 rounds played on the first day, Kurtz turned in a week-low score of 67 and also carded three 69s.
“It wasn’t good enough just playing. I’m not happy if I’m not playing well, and this was no different,” Kurtz said. “If I didn’t have a good round, I knew I had another 18 holes coming up.
“The secret for me is every time I go out, I know I can shoot my age or better,” Kurtz added. “I might only do that one out of every 10 times, but the potential is always there for every round. Not many golfers can say they can shoot their age, and that’s very motivating for me.”
Kurtz had a slew of volunteers assisting him during his record-breaking effort, which was played in temperatures pushing 100 degrees. One of the volunteers was Dr. Larry Lemak, a world-renowned sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon who has worked with hundreds of NFL football players. He also had six grandchildren on the job, retrieving balls from the cup, replacing pins and setting up his next tee shot.
“I only had one fear when I started this thing, and that was having my back go out,” Kurtz said. “Fortunately, that didn’t happen. I work out a lot, and I pay special attention to maintaining my core strength. I think that’s why I was able to play 1,850 consecutive holes.”
Kurtz’s stop in Lake Placid was his second visit to the region in the past two years.
As an interesting aside, Kurtz, who spent his younger years growing up in South Dakota, said a very close friend in high school was Patti Lane, who married Herb Brooks, coach of the United States Miracle on Ice Hockey team that won Olympic golf in Lake Placid in 1980.
This week, Kurtz and the other Sunbelt Senior Tour golfers are competing in Cooperstown at the Leatherstocking Golf Club.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Bob Kurtz gestures on the ninth green at the Whiteface Club during the final round of the Adirondack Senior Open on Thursday, Sept. 1.