When the phone call is finally answered on the fourth ring, the voice on the other end sounds so groggy and disconcerted that the caller immediately apologizes for interrupting what must have been the deepest of slumbers.
Actually, Brian Gay replies, he just walked into his house after running some errands and is getting ready to start packing for the next trip, a fourth country in the last four weeks. It’s just that groggy is sort of a never-ending status these days.
“I’m actually not too bad today,” he insists. “Last week was a struggle. I don’t know how I shot 7 under on Thursday. I was a complete zombie.”
This was Monday evening, as Gay prepared himself for another restless night before an early flight to Mexico for this week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba. But the whirlwind schedule had started 23 days earlier, when he left his Orlando home on a Saturday, flying to Miami, then London, then finally Kuala Lumpur for the CIMB Classic. (Even if his golf clubs decided to spend an extra night in Heathrow Airport, thanks to airline futility.)
From Malaysia he took a direct flight to Shanghai for the WGC-HSBC Champions, then got lucky with only one layover, stopping in Chicago for a few hours before making it back to Orlando. He spent less than 48 hours at home before he was back on the road – literally this time, driving the three hours to Sea Island, Ga., to compete in the McGladrey Classic.
It’s at this point where it should be noted that Gay hasn’t been traveling the world during golf’s so-called silly season to follow a golden road of appearance fees in fun-filled cash-grabs. He’s simply following the PGA Tour’s schedule for the early part of the 2013-14 season, the only player to attempt the four-countries-in-four-weeks Grand Slam.
“I figured it would be pretty hard,” he admits. “There aren’t too many times I even play four in a row in the States, but I didn’t want to miss Malaysia or China – those are good events. And I enjoy Sea Island; at least it’s not another plane ride. And I’ve won in Mexico, so I figure there’s no reason to sit at home.”
Before the accusations start flying, before anyone criticizes Gay for picking his own schedule then complaining about it, he makes the point that he not only isn’t complaining, he’d do it all over again the same way if he could.
The three tournament starts so far have resulted in finishes of T-47, T-46 and T-4, but the logistical issues have consisted of more than just trying to keep his drives straight and his putts on the right line.
Prior to leaving for Malaysia, he realized that he didn’t have a working visa for the next week’s event in China. Getting one would require submitting his passport via mail, however he needed it to make the initial trip; so thanks to a major assist from wife Kimberly, after hours of red-tape phone calls he received a second passport, then submitted that one for the visa, which arrived to his hotel room in Malaysia two days before he left for the HSBC.
“It went from Houston to Indianapolis to Anchorage and kept going. I mean, this thing went all over the world and wound up on the floor of my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur,” he says. “That just blows my mind.”
That Saturday was the same day his usually jovial caddie Kip Henley went solemnly silent on the back nine, the result of a stomach bug that left him unable to continue.
“He went up to this group of guys who were watching,” Gay recounts, “and asked, ‘Who’s the best player in the group?’ Next thing I know this Australian guy was carrying my bag.”
Other issues for Gay came as a result of the international travel. He ate more than a few friendly meals of spaghetti Bolognese and club sandwiches in Asia. He watched “The Today Show” via Slingbox in China – at 8 p.m. He fell asleep at dinner with Kimberly in Sea Island, then was wide awake in the middle of the night.
And then there’s the greatest problem of playing such a schedule.
“I’ve missed, like, three weeks of football,” he laments. “I left in the middle of football on that Saturday afternoon.”
Keep all of this in mind the next time someone speaks enviously of the glorious lives of PGA Tour professionals. By the time he walks through his front door next week, Gay will have traveled 23,200 miles in the past month, leaving him only a few well-struck 3-woods shy of the total distance around the equator.
He sounds groggy, sure, but he wouldn’t trade these travels – even if they have given him a new appreciation for his upcoming six-week vacation.
“I’d do it again,” he says, still sounding half-asleep. “It’s been a really good trip.”