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Monday, Dec. 14, 2020

Barbaree Turns Pro

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College grad seeks career in golf

When Phil Barbaree took his then- 5-year-old son, Philip, to the driving range, Dad had only one hope.

“My whole explanation for taking him out there was maybe one of these days, he can play high school golf,” Barbaree Sr. said. “He obviously took it a lot further than that, which shows he was blessed with a lot of talent.”

Boy, was he. Philip not only played high school golf, but he was one of the best prep players in the country. Philip then went to LSU, where he was an All-SEC Second Team selection.

Now, the December graduate is turning professional, hoping to earn a living playing a game most of us play for fun.

“As a young kid, you grow up watching The Masters or the (major tournaments), and if you have big dreams, you don’t really ever say, ‘I want to be the best college player.’ You say, ‘I want to be the best player in the world. I want to win majors. I want to be a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.’ I’ve always had that mindset from a young age.”

While at C.E. Byrd High School, Barbaree Jr. twice won the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division 1 Individual State Championship. In 2015, he was the U.S. Junior Amateur champion. In college, his career stroke average of 72.27 was the fourth lowest in LSU history. Barbaree’s 12 top-10 finishes are tied for 15th most in school history.

Not bad for a kid whose dad just wanted him to play high school golf.

“I think he could see some potential there,” Barbaree Jr. said of his father. “I started getting some lessons and just kind of grew a little bit as time went on.”

“Philip just had a natural chipping and putting motion,” Barbaree Sr. said. “He, unlike his 5- to 7-year-old peers, had the concentration to practice one to two hours, where his buddies’ attention span was about 30 minutes. He became good at a very fast pace.”

Barbaree Jr. will try to become the latest in a line of golfers who were born in – or grew up in – Shreveport-Bossier and played – or are playing – professional golf. Many of them, like Hal Sutton, David Toms, and – most recently – Sam Burns, have found success. In doing so, they have provided motivation to those who hope to follow their spike marks.

“Having David Toms’ success in our sights as young kids definitely helped and made us believe we can be out there, too, on the PGA Tour,” Barbaree Jr. said. “It gives me even more confidence that I see Sam Burns play really well. We grew up together. We met by playing small tournaments around here, and when we met, there was a great connection. From that point on, we really bonded and pushed each other to get better.”

Despite the success of Sutton ($17 million in career earnings), Toms ($46 million) and Burns ($2.8 million), golf is not as easy as it looks – especially when your livelihood can depend on making a four-foot putt.

“It’s a hard way to make a living, and I’ve told him that,” Barbaree Sr. said. “There aren’t very many that can do it. It’s a matter of chasing your dreams, I guess, and that’s what we all should do. At some point, if he makes it, that’s going to be great. It will be what is the Lord’s will. If he doesn’t make it, that’s OK, too.”

Barbaree Jr.’s dream came into focus in 2010. His father took him to watch a practice round for The Masters at historic Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

“When I go back, I hope to be a player,” Barbaree Jr. said.

“Wouldn’t that be a nice thing to happen?” Barbaree Sr. said. “It’s a long, hard road. If he plays at Augusta, obviously he would have earned that opportunity to play there. That would be just a dream come true. Every step of the way, really, he’s overachieved. I think it’s certainly possible. It would be quite special.”

In January, Barbaree Jr. plans to try and qualify for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. In February, he will start trying to qualify for tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour (a developmental tour for the PGA Tour). He then hopes to go to qualifying school for the Canadian Tour, followed by Korn Ferry qualifying school.

But to his father, regardless of what happens, Philip is already a success. And that success has nothing to do with golf.

“He’s a lot better person, really, than he is a golfer. He’s a really good young man.”

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