GOLF : Add Barber, 75, to List of Ageless Wonders

This seems to be the era of ageless athletes. At 44, Nolan Ryan is performing amazing feats in baseball. Carlton Fisk is going strong at 43. George Foreman remains a force in boxing at 42 and Jimmy Connors is the sensation of tennis at 39.

And then there is Jerry Barber.

The longtime Los Angeles resident will celebrate his 50th year as a professional golfer in 1992. He is 75.

And Barber is still going strong on the Senior PGA Tour.


Longevity is a feature of the Barber family. His mother was 103 (and a half, Barber notes) when she died, and his father was 86. He has eight brothers and sisters, all still living, ranging in age from 72 to 87.

“That’s why I’ve never thought much about my age,” he said. “It is taken for granted in the family. All of them, like me, are enjoying good health.”

Most of the senior players talk about playing with their friends from the regular tour. Not Barber.

He is 25 years older than the senior rookies, and even most of the players in the super seniors (60 or older) are at least a dozen years younger.


Yet, Barber rarely misses a tournament. Seniors can ride, but only in the past couple of years has Barber used a cart even part of the time.

Although some of the top seniors, because of injuries and ailments, cannot play in the U.S. Senior Open because players are required to walk, Barber never misses it. The tournament is played the last week in July, invariably in extreme heat and humidity. And Barber manages to walk the 72 holes and play reasonably well.

This year it was played at Oakland Hills, in Michigan, and Barber had two 74s and a 75 before posting a 78 in the final round.

“I’ve been walking all my life and it’s no problem,” Barber said. “When I’m not on the tour, I’m on an exercise program which includes walking several miles a day. I don’t eat a lot of junk food or much meat. I am into the right nutrition.”


Barber hasn’t always paid such strict attention to his health. Health advocate Jack LaLanne, now 76, finally made a believer out of him.

“It was 31 years ago and I was the pro at Wilshire Country Club,” Barber said. “Jack had his health center nearby. He kept insisting that I had to start getting myself into condition. He sent me to a nutritionist and set me up with an exercise program.”

Barber, who turned pro in 1942 and joined the tour in 1948, won eight tournaments. He left the tour in 1962 and spent nearly two decades as the pro at Wilshire and then Griffith Park.

He thought his career as a competitor was over until the senior tour blossomed. He was already 64 when it was organized in 1980. Still, he has made his mark.


At 5 feet 5 and 142 pounds, Barber was never one of the long hitters. But he has long been considered one of the sport’s great putters. Recently, Chi Chi Rodriguez, the leading money winner on the senior tour this year, credited Barber for helping him straighten out his stroke. In 1976, Barber helped Tom Watson with his putting, and Watson then won four consecutive money-winning titles on the regular tour.

A hot putter led to Barber’s major victory, the 1961 PGA Championship, at Olympia Fields, near Chicago.

Barber, then 45, was trailing Don January, a mere 31, by four shots with three holes remaining. Barber sank putts of 25, 40 and 52 feet and when January bogeyed the 18th, the two-shot switch enabled Barber to tie. In a playoff the next day, Barber shot 67 and won by a stroke.

“I have sunk many long putts,” Barber said. “I started playing when I was 6, and I have spent many hours practicing long putts. I tell people to get out there and practice 40-foot and longer putts. Practicing medium and short putts won’t develop a stroke for long putts.”


Sam Snead made headlines in 1979 when, at 67, he shot 67-66 in successive rounds at the Quad Cities Open.

In almost every tournament, Barber shoots at least one round under his age. In late August, he already had 35 rounds at or under his age.

Although he has not won a senior tournament, Barber has won four super senior events, competition within competition for the 60-and-older set. And he has been second twice this year.

In his first 21 tournaments this year, Barber had a high finish of 14th and earned $27,894. In the super seniors, he was ninth, having earned an additional $51,692.


He earned $11,000 for winning the PGA Championship.

There are several goals ahead for Barber. An impending challenge is the Security Pacific senior event to be held at Rancho Park Oct. 25-27. Rancho is one of his favorite courses, and he says he has a shot at winning the super seniors’ event.

But the goal that really keeps him going can be achieved late next year. His son, Tom, who runs the Griffith Park complex, will be 50 on Nov. 6, 1992. Barber is hoping that he and Tom will become the first father and son to play in a senior tour event together.

“Several sponsors have told me that when Tom is eligible, we’ll both be invited,” Barber said. “That would be a fun way to climax my career.”


Golf Notes

Amy Alcott’s annual pro-am tournament for multiple sclerosis will be played Sept. 23 at Riviera Country Club. Among the LPGA players competing will be Myra Blackwelder, Kay Cockerill, Michelle Estill, Martha Foyer, Tara Fleming, Patti Jordan, Peggy Kirsch, Missie McGeorge, Sandra Palmer, Nancy Rubin and Jennifer Wyatt. . . . Jay Colliatie, general manager and golf pro at PGA West at La Quinta, has been named head of golf operations for the new Pelican Hill Golf Club currently under development at Newport Coast.

The second annual Bobby Jones Father/Son Team tournament will be held Dec. 26-30 at three courses on the Monterey Peninsula--Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and The Links. . . . Gary Player and Lee Trevino have committed to play in the second annual Security Pacific Senior Classic, Oct. 21-27 at Rancho Park Golf Course. . . . The William H. Parker Los Angeles Police Foundation Pro-Am Challenge tournament is scheduled for Sept. 30 at the Braemar Country Club.

Dr. Sidney Rosin had two holes in one within five days, after going 17 years without an ace. He had his first on July 30 at Bear Creek Golf Club in Murietta on the par-three, 156-yard 12th hole. On Aug. 3, he had another on the 127-yard 16th hole at Hillcrest Country Club. . . .The Organization for the Needs of the Elderly will hold its third annual celebrity tournament at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge on Oct. 21. . . . The Cadillac Invitational, benefiting the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, will be held at the Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai on Sept. 27.