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Ultimate travel golfer wants to set world courses record

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Contributor

Golf in AlaskaRichard Suozzo has gone through a few inconveniences most golfers haven't had to suffer through.

Like having AK-47s pointed at him by the Zimbabwe army, earthquakes in Alaska and being forced to sign a waiver to play golf in a South African national park.

"I had to sign a waiver because if one of the animals kills you, you're on your own," said the 41-year-old Suozzo.

AK-47s, earthquakes and wild animals: This could be the ultimate travel golfer.

"I like to play," he said, in what could be the understatement of the year.

In fact, Suozzo may be headed for the Guinness Book of World Records. He has applied to Guiness, trying to find out if he, as a non-competing amateur, can either break or establish the record for most golf courses played.

Guinness has yet to get back to him, but Suozzo figures with more than 530 courses played to date, and many more planned, he will be close.

"I know the pros who have been playing for 50 years like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are probably up in the thousands," he said. "But, as a non-competing amateur, I might have a shot."

Suozzo doesn't have his expenses paid, like the pros. As a teacher and part-time umpire in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he has to choose his money and time carefully.

Golf in Zimbabwe"The plan is for 60-75 new courses a year for maybe the next five years," he said. "That brings me up in the 900-1,000 range and I'm going to put that up against anybody."

He sneaks off to play during the year and as soon as summer hits, he's on the road.

He's there now, for example, for a cross-country jaunt, with plans to drive and play for nine weeks until he has to return for school in September.

"I'm bringing my tent and golf clubs," the fast-talking New Yorker said. "That's it."

In the United States, Suozzo has only a general idea of where he's going to play golf when he jumps in his car.

"If I don't like it, I'm out of there," he said.

He's been up and down the California coast, played the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama, Bear Trace in Tennessee, and almost all points in between.

He's played the Adirondacks region back toward Canada, through Lake Placid, he's played Pinehurst No. 2 and on through Virginia and Virginia Beach.

There are themes, though.

"I tend to go for the designers," he said. "I'm a huge Robert Trent Jones fan. I'm hooked on playing golf courses by the better designers. I've been on a Donald Ross kick this year, and then Arnold Palmer. I've played a lot of Nicklaus, and if I can find any public course by CB MacDonald, I'll play it. But, those are hard to find."

When he travels overseas, however, his itineraries are more careful.

In Zimbabwe, for example, he didn't know the correct political protocol. "They didn't like the fact I stopped the car five blocks from the Presidential Palace," he said. "I had AK-47s pointed in the windows."

Golf in South AfricaSouth Africa is one of his favorite golfing countries.

"I'm trying to set the record down there," he said. "In six trips, I played 179 courses, just in South Africa alone. I played 40 in New Zealand and Australia, and I've played up in British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Alaska."

In all, Suozzo has played in 10 countries and 27 states. He once played four, nine-hole courses in a single day, in Canada, where daylight savings time and the northern sun helped out. In Dawson City, Yukon, he played the Top of the World Golf Course.

He has plans to go back to Australia next year, as well as eastern Canada. There are limits, though.

"I'm not going to play in the Middle East any time soon," he said.

Suozzo plays to a 10-handicap, but swears it should be lower.

"I'm getting better," he said. "As weird as it sounds, it's tough playing a different place every day, not knowing the course. If I'd been playing the same course over and over, maybe I'd have a 5 handicap. But, that's what makes it fun, too."

As you might expect from one who plays so much, injuries crop up from time to time. Suozzo broke his right wrist last year in March at Pebble Beach. When he returned home, he broke his left arm.

"So I lost 12 weeks of prime golf season last year, which hurts," he said.

He'll make up for it.

"Single, no kids, summers off," he said. "It's a great world."

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Golf, what else?

    Nick Aquilino wrote on: Jan 8, 2014

    Well it is now 2014 and this article is 10 years old so who knows how many courses have been played. I personally have played 1712 different courses and I have a scorecard from every one. I also know of a golf writer named Bob Fagen from CA who has played somewhere near 3,000 different courses so our friend needs to do a lot of playing to get anywhere near that number. Interestingly enough, the touring pros likely have played a lot less courses than our friend imagines. Remember most of the tournaments are played on the same course every year or changed very seldom. Hard to build up numbers that way. Anyway if Suozzo reads this have him e-mail me his current status. I am also a former New Yorker and maybe we can tee it up somewhere and compare notes. Nick

    Reply

  • golf courses played

    randy wrote on: Apr 5, 2009

    that's good but I have played 565 different courses (18 hole courses only) and have a logo ball from all but 10.

    Reply

      • RE: golf courses played

        r suozzo wrote on: Apr 29, 2009

        since this article i am presently on course # 969 with courses played in all 50 states plus washington dc and 10 foreign countries

        Reply

  • Boogies

    janet Wemm wrote on: Oct 3, 2008

    That guys got a handicap all right.

    Reply

  • Countries golfed in

    Van wrote on: May 25, 2008

    He sure has beat me on number of rounds, but can he beat golf in 21 different countries?
    US
    Mexico
    Kazakhstan
    Scotland
    England
    Guatemala
    Turkey
    Jordan
    Egypt
    Iraq
    Spain
    Czech
    Portugal
    South Africa
    Australia
    Greece
    Bangladesh
    Nepal
    India
    Thailand
    Indonesia (Bali)

    Reply

      • RE: Countries golfed in

        rich suozzo wrote on: Feb 2, 2012

        after a year with 160 new courses played i am presently stuck on course # 1366

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Countries golfed in

            Rob Ramsay wrote on: Oct 14, 2013

            I've been a travel nurse for the last 14 years. Right now I have 1268 courses in my pocket, from sand greens courses to Chambers Bay. I probally have about 75 more courses in New England where I lived before traveling, but don't have scorecards for them. Don't really know what the record is but I think its 3,000. I've spent over $30,000. Try to play a new course everytime I play. Best luck, Rob

            Reply

      • RE: Countries golfed in

        Stusetofsuoz wrote on: May 13, 2009

        He is still better then you so haha
        *laughs at you*

        Reply

          • RE: RE: Countries golfed in

            rich suozzo wrote on: Dec 16, 2009

            after a busy summer i am now stuck on 1071

            Reply

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