Rhein Gibson shot to international fame after recording a Guinness World Record low-round 55 in 2012. Three years on, this Lismore product has graduated from one of the golf world’s toughest circuits to the biggest stage of all – the US PGA Tour.
IT IS a story told all too often. A tale of early struggles, heartbreak and hardship in the pursuit of excellence – a road most golfers walk down regularly.
Rhein Gibson is no different.
Despite taking a longer road than many – through college scholarships and mini tours – the Victorian-born Lismore golfer has finally reached the pinnacle.
In finishing 10th place overall on the Web.com Tour’s four-week finals series – within the top-25 qualification spots – Gibson’s graduation to the game’s most lucrative stage has been the product of hard work and determination.
“It’s been a lifelong dream, for sure,” says Gibson, fresh from securing his US PGA Tour card for the 2015/16 season. “It’s been a tough road but I’m stoked for what the year ahead holds.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind but I’ve already tried to improve year-by-year and I definitely think this justifies the hard work I’ve put in.
“I’m looking forward to seeing new places and courses that I have watched from a young age on TV; it’s what I’ve worked so hard for so I’m just going to enjoy what’s in front of me.”
Gibson is best known for his Guinness World Record lowest round of golf, which was a 16-under par 55 at the River Oaks Golf Club in Oklahoma in 2012. And after three years of living with that reputation while playing tours across the world, Gibson birdied his way into the big league with a blistering final round 65 at the Web.com Tour Championship in early October. Vindicating a year of fine-tuning in the process, the Australian could ill afford a celebration. Instead, Gibson took his place on the tee two weeks later on the US PGA Tour’s season-opening Frys.com tournament.
“I feel my game is moving in the right direction,” says Gibson. “Each year I’ve been getting better and bettering my positions, which is encouraging.
“During the past year, I’ve worked on getting my swing a little more consistent and focussed a lot on my short-game.”
A year after playing the Open Championship alongside Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, the 29-year-old can now consider such titanic pairings as regular fixtures as he becomes accustomed to the
cut-throat world of elite golf.
Despite missing the weekend of his opening four events, Gibson fought back to make the cut at the RSM Classic in Georgia in November.
“I won’t get as many starts which means that when I do, I need to take advantage,” says Oklahoma-based Gibson. “The first goal is to play well enough to retain my card.
“It’s hard as a rookie and the numbers alone confirm how difficult it will be.
“A bunch of Web.com graduates have already won on the US PGA Tour this year, which gives me confidence that I’m good enough to be out there and win.”
Come January 2016, Gibson hopes to feature at the Sony Open in Hawaii, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. After that, however, uncertainty follows.
But scheduling changes don’t worry Gibson, following years of crisscrossing across continents, sampling a range of course conditions.
“American courses seem like they are getting longer,” says Gibson. “Or at least re-designed with new tees and bunkers to counteract this trend of long hitters.
“There is a premium on hitting it long these days and this is quite evident on the US PGA Tour.”
As Gibson’s game continues to progress, he aims to draw on putting and driving distance rankings of 13th and 21st, respectively, on the Web.com Tour during 2015 in an effort to capitalise on his attacking ability.
“I feel I have the ability to go low,” he says. “It suits my game as I’m very much a momentum kind of player.
“If I get on a roll, whether it be with a hot putter or a strong wedge game, I feel I can make plenty of birdies, which is key on whatever course you play.”
Gibson’s philosophy bodes well for success, and has been honed during twelve months of fighting it out on the game’s secondary Tour – where low scores are paramount.
“The talent on the Web.com Tour is crazy good,” Gibson says. “To be honest, the depth of golf on the mini tours in America is a joke; these guys are so good.
“Every week someone is shooting 20-under-par and winning. It’s so competitive and I hope to take this mentality onto the US PGA Tour.
“Obviously there are some weeks where low scores are there to be taken with optimum conditions, so hopefully I can get hot during those weeks. So far, I’ve really struggled on the greens and at the end of the day, if you can’t get it in the hole you won’t contend.”
On the day of May 12, 2012 however, the holes doubled in size for the quick-firing Gibson.
Famed for shooting an official world-record 55 during a Saturday morning game with friends in Oklahoma, almost four years on, Gibson now hopes to step out of the shadows of his achievement.
“To be honest,” he admits, “the 55 didn’t do a thing for my game. It got me a quick five minutes of fame but other than that, nothing.
“In fact, the amount of time I spent doing interviews and the rest, it definitely didn’t pay off. It’s a nice thing to achieve but I’m really trying to make a living playing golf.”
Billed as one of the top-10 graduates to watch on the US PGA Tour this season, and with his place in sporting history already assured, Gibson aims to re-write his legacy alongside the cream of the golfing crop.
Watch this space…