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Brian Barnes (1945-2019)

10 Sep 19

Brian Barnes Story

PGA captain-elect Bernard Gallacher has paid tribute to Brian Barnes, his former Ryder Cup team-mate, friend and honorary PGA Member who has died at the age of 74.

Brian played in six successive Ryder Cup matches and teamed up with Gallacher 10 times in four of them.

The pair won five-and-a-half points, three of which were claimed in the 1979 match, the first to include players from continental Europe.

Four years earlier at Laurel Valley Golf Club, Pennsylvania, Barnes had achieved a result the Americans deemed impossible.

He defeated Jack Nicklaus not once but twice in a day – 4&2 in the morning singles and 2&1 in the afternoon.

“He played great matches in The Ryder Cup over six appearances,” Gallacher recalled, “but we’ll never forget 1975 at Laurel Valley.

“When he beat Jack Nicklaus in the morning singles we were so pleased for him. Then we found out that Arnold Palmer went to Bernard Hunt, our captain, saying that Jack wanted to play Brian again – they agreed if they wanted to face each other again to let them.

“It was an amazing moment for British golf when Brian won in the afternoon. The Americans couldn’t believe it and they were all congratulating him saying they never thought anybody could beat Jack.

“I’ve lost two great friends over the last couple of years with Tommy Horton and now Brian passing.

“Brian was a larger than life character and we were very close when we both played on the Tour. We kept in touch over the years, which I was very happy with, and our families were very close.”

Brian, along with Horton, was one of the ‘Butten Boys’, a group of eight promising young professionals recruited by Ernest Butten, an entrepreneur and keen golfer. His aim was twofold: to produce a British-born Open champion and Great Britain and Ireland regain the Ryder Cup.

To that end, and with support from The PGA, he developed a residential golf school at Sundridge Park Management Centre and Golf Club in Bromley, Kent.

In addition, he brought in Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open champion who became Brian’s father-in-law, as teaching professional and designed and built a futuristic gymnasium.

“He spent a lot of time in the gym doing bench presses and building up his muscles,” recalled Iain Clark, another Butten Boy and long-serving PGA Professional who is the father of Cameron, the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland PGA Cup captain.

“He had a body like Charles Atlas and was a big man in every respect. We became Butten Boys on the same day and kept in touch ever since.

“He was a groomsman at my wedding in 1967 and we’ve exchanged Christmas cards every year. He lived life to the full, loved to party and was a superb golfer. I’ll miss him greatly.”

Although Brian, like his fellow Butten Boys, never won the Open nor was a member of a victorious Ryder Cup team, he justified Butten’s faith in his ability.

Having been taught the rudiments of the game by his father, the secretary at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club in Somerset, Brian turned professional shortly after winning the British Youths Open Amateur Championship in 1964.

Nine victories on the European Tour followed, the first at the 1972 Martini International, the last nine years later in the Haig Whisky TPC when he succeeded Gallacher as champion.

These triumphs bookended a quartet of victories in Opens on the European mainland – the Dutch, French, Spanish and Italian.

More wins followed when Brian became eligible to play on the European Senior Tour in 1995, five years after he represented Great Britain and Ireland in the PGA Cup.

He won back-to-back Senior Open Championships at Royal Portrush in 1995, the year he also won the Senior Tour Order of Merit, and 1996. 

He also claimed a maiden victory on the PGA Tour Champions at the Canada Senior Open in 1998 before arthritis ended his playing career in 2000 and he became a commentator for Sky Sports. 

Brian, who was born in England and represented the country of his birth as well as Scotland, passed away at his home in West Sussex after a short illness.

His daughter Didi and son Guy were by his side and The PGA extends sincere and heartfelt condolences to them and his other family members and friends.

*Brian’s funeral will take place at 1pm on September 23rd at St Peter’s Church, Church Lane, Henfield, BN5 9NY. 


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