Work in progress
Jerry Barber's legacy lives on through golfing family members
Jerry Barber didn’t play his first full season on the PGA Tour until he was 33, an age when most golfers have established their careers and some have already experienced their greatest achievements.
He played his final tour event in San Diego when he was 77, shot his age in the opening round and six shots better in the second.
In between, Barber left a lasting imprint on the game. He won seven times on the PGA Tour, including the 1961 PGA Championship. He played on two Ryder Cup teams and was playing captain in ’61, a season he was also named PGA Player of the Year. And he had a successful career on the Senior PGA Tour, even though he was well into his 60s by the time it was established.
Barber, along with longtime Los Verdes and Lakewood professional Len Kennett, was inducted into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame on Oct. 25 at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City.
Kennett, 89, has been instrumental in women’s and junior golf programs throughout his career and recently oversaw the 61st year of the Len Kennett Junior Golf Championship. Kennett was also one of the first individuals to open stores away from courses at which golfers could buy discounted top-of-the-line equipment. Previously, pro-line equipment had been available only at pro shops.
Barber’s greatest lasting influence probably came from the hard-working, principled example he set throughout his life. And he passed on what he considered an unmatched love of golf to his children, who in turn have passed that passion on to the next generation.
“A fellow once said he loved the game more than anyone,” said Tom Barber, Jerry’s son and head professional at Griffith Park, as his father was for almost three decades. “My dad said, ‘More than anyone? I don’t think so.’ I don’t believe anyone loved the game more than Dad did.”
Tom spoke from experience. He was 9 in 1952 when he spent the first of nine summers with his father on tour. They traveled by car from tour stop to tour stop. Tom listened intently to stories and got to meet national figures most other kids saw only in newspapers, such as Babe Didrickson, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.
“It was like nothing I could possibly imagine,” he said. “I was on the ground floor as the tour was really forming. I spent most of my time on the putting green, in the swimming pool, following Dad around the course. It was second to nothing.”
Tom also saw firsthand the kind of dedication it took for his father, who was only 5-feet-5 and about 138 pounds, to remain competitive on tour.
“My dad said to me while we were driving down the highway one time, ‘They may be able to beat me, but nobody will outwork me.”