Don Eldredge and Joyce Godwin
Grayson County friends, and most
other residents, knew he was a professional golfer of prominent
standing, but it was his dedication to his community, especially to his
adopted home of Sherman, that made Miller Barber the well-liked and
respected man he became.
Tuesday, June 11, in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a year-long bout with
cancer. He and his wife, Karen, had moved to Arizona after he retired
from professional golf in 2004, but he maintained friendships in Texas
and returned for occasional charity tournaments. He also monetarily
supported Grayson County events even when he could not attend.
He gave a
lot of time to the kids of Sherman, recalled friend and former Sherman
City Councilman Jimmy Jack Beale, who served as a financial adviser for
Barber during the golfer's playing days. He contributed so
much to the community.
When we had
the NFLA (charity golf tournament) going on, all those silent auction
items signed by famous golfers and other athletes, Miller and Karen got
those for us, said Beale. They helped raise hundreds of
thousands of dollars for the kids in this area.
served on the Sherman Independent School District board of directors
from 1986 to 1992, which was a particularly busy time during his
Sherman school district coach and administrator Tommy Hudspeth recalled
that Barber played a major role in bringing highly successful football
coach John Outlaw to the city. He was very supportive of
athletics, of course, Hudspeth said, but he was not
anti-anything. He was for the kids and the schools, and he really gave
up some (professional) time in order to serve the district.
Girls Club of Sherman Executive Director Mike DeLong said that when he
became program director of the local club in 1985, both Barber and his
wife were active with the organization. Karen was on our board
at the time, DeLong said. Miller and Karen always sponsored
and Karen Barber married in 1970, when the golfer was 39 years old.
She had three sons (Casey, Doug and Brad) from an earlier
marriage, and the couple added two more boys, Larry and Richard, to the
family. Throughout much of their early married life, Barber
on the road playing golf while his wife was at home raising the kids.
But he really wasn't a long-distance dad to his five sons.
time when Richard was play (a Boys Club sport), he was just a
youngster," said DeLong, "he fell and got hurt. Miller came
of the stands and picked him up and cradled him in his arms...making
sure he was OK. I remember that vividly. What a
father he was with his boys."
Barber was born in Shreveport,
La., and spent his formative years in Texarkana, Texas, where he
finished high school. He left home for Texas A&M
(one year) and then the University of Arkansas. Following
graduation there, he spent four years in the United States Air Force.
It was the military that brought him to Grayson County...to
Perrin Air Force Base, now North Texas Regional Airport-Perrin Field.
serving at Perrin, he met Read Omohundro, with whom he would later
partner as co-owners of Woodlawn Country Club between Sherman and
Barber was 11 years old when he first took up golf,
proud to tell the story that his first bag was a cardboard tube he
shellacked. He did odd jobs in Texarkana to pay for gold
and by the time he was in college, his game showed professional promis.
His college career culminated with the NCAA championship at
After military duty, he found enough monetary backing
in his adopted Grayson County to join the Professional Golfer's
Association - initially with little success. He even too a
head pro at a New York golf club to augment his earnings. But
wasn't long before he turned it all around.
When he was "roasted" in Sherman in 1974 during a "Miller Barber Day"
celebration, one of Barber's original backers, Ray
of Denison, recalled jokingly, "...when Miller made his first profit on
tour, I told him to tear up the contract and strike out on his own.
He thought I was just turning him loose, but really, I didn't
want to get caught with the bills if he stopped winning."
first PGA tour victory came in his fifth year, at the 1964 Cajun
Classic in Lafayette, La. He shot at seven-under-par 67 on
final round, beating out runners-up Gay Brewer and Jack Nicklaus by
five strokes with a four-round total of 277. He came near a
second victory that year, losing out to winer Gary Player and runner-up
Arnold Palmer in a three-way 18-hole playoff at the Pensacola, Fla.,
second playoff, however, he turned into a victory, beating out Player
with a birdie on the third extra hole at the 1967 Oklahoma City Open.
It was the beginning of a streak of at least one tournament
victory a year through 1974, when he won the Ohio Kings Island Open.
During that streak he won the Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas
1968 and his richest tournament, the 1973 World Open Golf Championship
in Pinehurst, N.C., pocketing $100,000 for the 144-hole event.
Barber turned 50 years old in 1981, he had notched 11 PGA tour
victories, during which time he became the tenth man on the PGA tour to
top the million dollar mark in earnings. It's likely he could
have suspected that his greated golfing glory was yet to come.
joining the PGS Senior Tour, his first year out he won three
tournaments, including the 1981 PGA Seniors' Championship with a
two-stroke victory over Arnold Palmer. He followed that with
three more victories in both 1982 and 1983, including the U.S. Senior
Open. By the time he began to curtail his touring schedule in
early 1990s, he had won a record 24 tournaments on the Senior Tour
(later renamed the Champions Tour), including five Champions majors.
played occasional tournaments into the 21st century, winning the
Legends of Golf titles with partner Jim Ferree in 2002 and 2003.
a North Carolina native who was the same age as Barber and made his
greatest mark as a touring profession on the Senior Tour, is credited
by most with naming Barber "Mr. X," a nickname he gained during his
early days on the PGA tour.
Barber told the story that Ferree
began calling him "The Mysterious Mr. X" because, "I never told
(anyone) where I was going at night (after a tournament round).
was a bachelor and a mystery man."
His moniker was shortened
from "Mysterious Mr. X" to simply "Mr. X" and eventually jus "X."
Sherman friend and adviser Beale said, "The last seven or
years, we talked every single day, if not two or three times
day. I called him 'X' and he called me "Y.'"
In a story appearing in Golf
this past week, it was noted that Barber made 1,297 starts on the
regular and senior PGA tours. That is a record. In
retirement years he played frequently at Whisper Rock in Scottsdale.
his final days at Silver Stone Care Center in Scottsdale, his wife and
sons Larry and Richard were at his side, with Casey, Doug and Brad in
close touch. On the day he died, Barber receivfed a phone
from Jack Nicklaus. His son Larry told a Golf Digest
writer, "It was short, and Dad did more listening than talking.
But Mr. Nicklaus obviously told him some pretty nice things,
because he brightened. He became alert."
Richard has remained active for years with the Sherman Boys and Girls
Club, serving as president of its board of directors. He and
family moved to Arizona this year during his father's illness.
Director DeLong said, "Miller loved coming back to Sherman.
one time did I ever see a kid ask Miller for an autograph that he
didn't, regardless of what he was doing, always smile and sign it, and
he was happy to do it."
"We lost a wonderful person in Miller,"
DeLong said. "With all the success he had on the golf course,
the end of the day he was a champion for kids, which I think was his