CULLMAN — On Wednesday, as Bob Kurtz attempts to break another world record, a representative from the Guinness World Record organization will be flying down from Buffalo, N.Y., to adjudicate the event.
Michael Empiric, whose title of adjudicator means to judge during a formal event, has made a living from witnessing world record attempts.
He’s been with the organization 10 months and says he travels all over the world, about a place a week, to witness these events and see if there’s a new world record set.
“It’s fascinating and weird and amazing all the time,” he said of his job.
With this particular world record attempt, Kurtz is looking to shoot the most rounds for a golfer to score their age or below in 24 hours. While the record is currently at five, Kurtz is looking to shoot 10 games of his age or lower.
Empiric said with his job comes research. He said he didn’t know that much about golf, but in order to fairly and accurately adjudicate this event, he had to study.
“I’m not really familiar with golf, but part of my job is if I’m going to a golf attempt, I need to learn as much as I can about golf, the record attempt, why this is unique,” he said.
During the event, Empiric said he doesn’t need to be there to watch Kurtz the whole 24 hours. He does watch for part of the time, but then he also relies on other witnesses to ensure the legitimacy.
Empiric said it’s common to have local people come out and help with the witnessing. He said while generally people are honest, he talks to them before the event to go over rules with them and make sure it’s all done fairly.
Empiric said the most unusual event he’s had to witness was at the Mall of America in Minnesota. The record attempt was for the most people dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
“The people dressed were amazing, and it was quite an undertaking,” he said.
To count all those people, Empiric took a clicker with him. He usually takes one everywhere he goes, but he’s not expecting to need it when he comes to Cullman.
His favorite place to adjudicate is Las Vegas because he said the people there have a lot of spirit. While it’s his favorite place, it’s also one of the worst places to go.
“You just want to stay up all night doing Las Vegas things, but you have to be up at 7 a.m. to adjudicate and get stuff going,” he said.
While he worked in public relations before coming to the Guinness World Record organization, he said this job really fits his personality.
“It’s the ‘these are the rules, no cheating’ side of my personality,” he said. “It’s like my ‘talk to the media gameshow host’ personality.”
However, before being sent out to adjudicate, each person must go through a training session, which includes lessons on how to deal with different cultures and how to handle yourself in public.
“It’s basically how to be the most observant and authoritative person we can be because when Guinness World Record sends us out, we are the eyes and ears of organization, so we get to make the final call,” he said.
That power to have the final say, according to Empiric, is very important.
“Whatever I say, that’s what goes, so there’s not much wiggle room,” he said. “If I think something is not happening correctly, I get to make the final call.”
If the final call is that the world record was broken, the results are updated pretty quickly. Empiric said he travels with a certificate that can be handed out upon completion of the record, and he’s also prepared to talk to the media. Then he can go right to the Guinness World Record database on his computer and update the information.
“It’s pretty instantaneous,” he said. “So if Bob breaks the world record, he’ll be listed on the website in our database. He’ll be searchable if he’s successful.”
If Kurtz doesn’t break the record, Empiric is usually gone pretty quickly.
“If there’s an unsuccessful attempt, some people will still ask me to say some words, others say you can vanish,” he said. “It depends on what they want.”
For those that don’t set a new world record, Empiric said it’s less about anger and more about being sad.
“People are so emotionally wrapped up in their attempts that when they’re unsuccessful, it’s hard emotionally for them,” he said. “It’s a sad event because you’ve worked so long and invested so much time and energy that to have an unsuccessful attempt is hard to process.”
With this added service the Guinness World Record offers of having someone come out and witness the event, whoever needs the witness pays for travel and lodging costs.
“The key thing that I would remind people as part of the contract is just because money is changing hands, there’s no guarantee of a successful attempt,” Empiric said. “It’s considered the same as any other record attempt in the world whether or not we’re present.”
% Laura Owens can be reached at 256-743-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.