GOLF/SPECIAL REPORT

LIFE AS A ‘GRINDER’

British Columbia’s Dave Barr ranked 33 out of 125—and he sweated for every cent

HAL QUINN April 10 1989
GOLF/SPECIAL REPORT

LIFE AS A ‘GRINDER’

British Columbia’s Dave Barr ranked 33 out of 125—and he sweated for every cent

HAL QUINN April 10 1989

LIFE AS A ‘GRINDER’

GOLF/SPECIAL REPORT

British Columbia’s Dave Barr ranked 33 out of 125—and he sweated for every cent

As Saturday’s twilight steals across the practice putting green of another stop on the PGA Tour, dozens of golf fans—in vibrant pastels and plaids—fix admiring stares on the superstars repetitively stroking putts. The stars occasionally glance up to respond to waves and entreaties to autograph hats and programs. Over to one side of the green—unnoticed—is Dave Barr, also rolling putt after putt. Unlike the others, Canada’s top professional golfer will not have to run the fans’ gauntlet when he finishes practising. Barr, in his 12th year on the Tour, simply hands his putter to his caddie and heads for his hotel.

Said the 37-year-old native of Kelowna, B.C.: “People see the winners all the time on TV and think of the big money, the glamor and the glory. But what it is, really, is a job, a tough job. I don’t think I’d want my kids to be professional golfers.”

The father of two may not be encumbered by fame and glory but he has won more tournament money playing golf—more than $1.2 million—than any other Canadian. Since joining the PGA Tour in 1978, the six-foot, oneinch, 195-lb. Barr has won two PGA tournaments, 12 Canadian titles and, with fellow Canadian Dan Halldorson, the 1985 World Cup. Last year, he finished 33rd in earnings in the Tour’s field of 125 top golfers, winning a personal high of $350,000.

But Barr plays down his accomplishments. “All I know how to do is grind it out, not give up and be persistent,” he explains. “The pressure is there all the time. For a lot of people, golf is a fun, recreation sport. For us pros, the only time it’s fun is when we’re playing well.”

The game’s bittersweet irony—the better the play, the greater the pressure—is not lost on Barr. In the final round of the 1985 U.S. Open, Barr lost one of golf’s most prestigious titles by one stroke to Andy North. Barr has no regrets about his performance and says, “That’s what the game is all about—getting into the hunt.”

For Barr, and all of the other players on the Tour, getting “into the hunt” is most often an elusive goal. Last year, despite averaging just

70.20 strokes per round on the par-72 courses in 27 PGA tournaments, Barr finished out of the money seven times and finished in the top 10 only seven times. He finished second twice, third twice and tied for fourth in the Canadian Open. Said Barr: “Some weeks, it’s stunning.

You might feel that you’ve played your best golf of the year but finish 20th. You wonder,

‘What do I have to do to beat these guys?’ ”

Barr did figure it out in the 1981 Quad Cities Open and the 1987 Georgia Pacific Atlanta Golf Classic on the PGA Tour and in 12 tournaments in Canada. “When you do win, there’s no experience like it,” Barr said. “The satisfaction is unbelievable, all the long hours of practice finally paying off. Just knowing that you’ve beaten some of the best players in the world

But the self-described “grinder” also admits that despite the pressure and the sacrifices, life on the Tour “beats a 9-to-5 job.” He adds: “Each week, there is more than $100,000 first-place money to be won. With the odds of 144 to 1, that’s better than a lottery.” And he says that he plans to play the odds for as long as he can. Barr cites PGA studies showing that professional golfers peak between age 35 and 41, then enter some sort of lull. Said Barr: “I’m right in that zone. I plan to capitalize on it and put away as much money as I can for that period between 41 and 50 when players seem lost and are just waiting to get on the Seniors Tour. I hope it’s still around in 13 years.” Until then, Canada’s best touring pro will not mind being ignored at twilight time. He will be on his way back to the hotel to phone home.

is a tremendous feeling.” The exhilaration of victory helps to assuage the pain of the long periods that touring golfers spend away from their families. Barr travels an average of 38 weeks a year. At home in Richmond, B.C., Lu Ann Barr has taken a year’s leave from schoolteaching to be with her children, Brent, 8, and Teryn, 5. On the road, Barr admits, the hotel room walls “start closing in after a while.” He calls home every day “before the kids go to bed, but you miss so many things, like little triumphs at school and teeth falling out.” Barr’s paycheques help ease the sting of separation. In 1978, his first year on the Tour, he earned slightly more than $13,500. But since 1984, he has earned more than $100,000 each year, topping $200,000 in 1987 and collecting more than $348,900 last year. Barr also receives fees as the touring professional for the Kananaskis Golf and Country Club, one hour southwest of Calgary, for using Toronto-made TNT clubs and for wearing the clothes of the Scottish company Lyle & Scott. The totalincome figure is impressive. But as Barr points out, his expenses on the Tour are about $90,000, in addition to his mortgage and other family costs. “By the end of the year,” he says, “you see a lot of hard-earned money disappear.”

HAL QUINN in Miami