Bob Roth of Moorpark, California, father of 1993 PGA Professional Champion Jeff Roth and someone his bride of 65 years calls a "contented, computer-free great grandpa," crossed the finish line of an improbable golfing goal.
On March 8, surrounded by friends and family at Saticoy Country Club in Somis, California, the 86-year-old Roth recorded his 10,000th round of golf.
That's 10,000 charted 18-hole rounds he's played on 514 golf courses since the spring of 1947. Taking the stats a bit further, it's 50,000 hours, 2,083 1/3 days; and 5.7 years.
What makes the feat significant for this former insurance salesman is that Roth didn't record any nine-hole rounds or par-3 courses he happened to play over the past 71 years. He's meticulously charted his strokes like someone tabulating mileage for the IRS.
"It's a love affair," says Roth. "The passion has been there to keep playing and enjoying the game. I'd like to see more young people taking up the game and putting down their hand-held tech devices."
Jeff Roth, a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame and now a PGA Life Member living in Farmington, New Mexico, is understandably proud of the man who inspired his golf career. "I maintain that no human has played more golf," says Jeff. "Should someone argue that Gary Player has played more rounds than my dad, I say, OK, that's nice. Please prove it.
"My dad's an inspiration to players of all ages. He's a motivation and inspiration to kids as well to get out and keep playing this game."
Born in Chicago and raised in Gary, Indiana, Bob Roth was 15 when he played his first 18-hole round of golf with his uncle at Newcastle (Pennsylvania) Country Club. Roth posted a humbling 128 and kept the scorecard. During this time, he excelled on the basketball court and averaged 22 points his senior high school season. That earned him a basketball scholarship to Northwestern University, where he played two seasons (1951-52) for the Wildcats.
Roth enlisted in the Air Force in 1953, serving two years and marrying Dolores Loncaric, his sweetheart since seventh grade. During this time, Roth played basketball for the Bo-Jets (semi-pro team) in Wichita, Kansas, and was a member of a traveling baseball team. In 1955, Roth received a basketball and baseball scholarship to Arizona State University. About that time, his late brother in law, Tony Loncaric, visited and brought Roth a set of golf clubs.
"From that point on," says Dolores, "Bob started his passion for golf. He was self-taught, reading instruction books and getting tips from Tony and friends." Following graduation in 1956, Roth was offered a bonus signing contract with the Boston Red Sox.
He kept his baseball offer a secret from his wife, believing that she would have supported him pursuing major league baseball. Roth decided to follow a surer path to success - in the insurance industry. He worked for Aetna Life Insurance Company for 32 years, and retired in 1988 as a senior account executive.
Among Roth's golf accomplishments during his march to 10,000 rounds was achieving a 5 golf handicap; and winning club championships in 1963 at Rainbow Springs Country Club in Mukwonago, Wisconsin; in 1981 at Farmington (Michigan) Country; and as 1991 Senior Club Champion at Saticoy Country Club.
Roth's club championship in 1963 came by defeating Wisconsin attorney John Pfannerstill, who used a long putter and a "claw grip." As an example of how what works in golf spreads quickly, Pfannerstill showed his putting grip style to Skip Kendall, who then passed it on to Chris DiMarco, who gave it worldwide attention.
Roth recorded his lowest round (71) in 1991 at age 59 at Farmington (Michigan) Country Club, and later matched it twice. He also has made two holes-in-one - coming at ages 74 and 76. He shot his age or better 71 times.
From 1973 to 1984, Roth served as a governor of the Golf Association of Michigan and coached high school-aged boys in a community basketball league.
The road to golf hierarchy doesn't come without a few bumps along the way. In 1994, Roth had successful left knee replacement surgery, which he says enabled him to continue toward that 10,000th round, a goal that was aided by playing four times a week at Saticoy Country Club.
"I've been blessed to have not had real serious health issues," says Roth. "It's been a long journey, but a pleasant one. It's hard to believe that it's been over 70 years." As the celebratory mood set in early on the historic round, Roth humbly posted a 96. That's 836,891 strokes, folks.
It's time for Bob Roth to take a break and savor the toasts at the nearest 19th hole.