Ray Barrett took up the game in 1977, when he was working and traveling in the insurance industry.
On May 23, in Fargo, North Dakota, four decades after co-workers asked Ray Barrett to try his hand at golf, he completed his goal of playing a round in each of the 50 states.
The goal was set after Barrett, 75, an insurance claims adjuster with Kemper Insurance for 33 years, retired from the New Jersey area in 1999 to Dunnellon with his wife of 56 years, Carole.
He reflected on all the golf games he had played across the country while traveling for business and marked a map with 39 push pins in states and decided to shoot for playing in all 50 states, with Carole playing as well.
He included games at courses in New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky to make the total 43. In 2017, the couple toured and played in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, leaving four states to go.
Then, the Barretts traveled to Wisconsin for their granddaughter MaKenna Barrett's graduation from the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, then went to Idaho, Montana and South Dakota. They played the final round of the goal in Fargo, North Dakota.
The staff at the Fargo Country Club congratulated Ray and presented him with a commemorative mug.
After the 50-state goal was reached, they visited their daughter, Colleen Flynn, in Illinois, and their grandson, Sean Patrick Flynn, who recently graduated from Johnsburg High School as a scholar athlete.
Ray Barrett had gone full circle from trying out the sport to being, in his own words, "hooked" on golf.
"I enjoyed the game and the camaraderie," he said.
Ray Barrett, a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, worked for a brief time as a messenger and then joined the Navy in 1961.
In 1962, while attending Navy Weather School in Lakehurst, New Jersey, he and Carole were married. He was stationed for about a year and a half in the Philippines, where his new bride joined him and they lived in Cavite City.
He was then assigned to the USS Pine Island, a seaplane tender, and served on the ship in 1965 and 1966 while it was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam and supported coastal missions.
After he completed his active service in the Navy in 1966, he looked into career opportunities and followed the lead of a family member who was working in the insurance industry. He worked briefly for another company and then went to work with Kemper Insurance as a commercial claims adjuster.
"I handled national accounts," he said, including large corporations.
Barrett was asked by friends in the insurance profession to join them on a morning golf game while he was on a three-day work trip in the Tampa area in 1977.
Golfing became a way to enhance relationships with customers, such as executives with McDonald's, and spend some time away from the office. Once, he had a spontaneous desire to golf in Alaska and, after a few phone calls to work associates, had a foursome organized to play at four courses there for several days.
Barrett's home office walls are covered with bag tags from country clubs across the country, from Hawaii to Florida and even to Ireland, with courses in places including Kapalua, Hawaii; Pebble Beach, California; and Pine Valley, New Jersey.
The Country Club of Ocala and Golden Ocala are included in Barrett's 50-state run.
He hit another high point in his personal golf career when he shot a score equal to his age — then 73 — at Juliette Falls Golf Course in Dunnellon in 2016.
The Barretts son, Roger Barrett, 51, of McHenry, Illinois, also is in the insurance profession and plays golf.
"A lot of business is done on the golf course," he said.
Roger Barrett said he has played in about 15 states to date. His son Ryan, 16, who has a twin brother, Jake, is playing in the Jr. PGA League.
"My dad and I enjoyed a lot of fun times on golf courses," he said, adding that he is glad that Ryan can now join them.