Skip to main content
Original Issue


Barbara McIntire, one of golf's prettiest swingers, next week tries for a record third championship

Barbara McIntire (see cover) is a 25-year-old native of Toledo, recently transplanted to Lake Park, Fla. What distinguishes her rather remarkably from other pretty girls from Toledo or Lake Park or any other place in the country is her golf, which she plays with such expert command that she is only the fifth woman in history to hold the U.S. and British Amateur championships at the same time. The others were Dorothy Campbell in 1909 and 1911, Pamela Barton in 1936, Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1947 and Louise Suggs in 1948. This week at the Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Barbara will attempt something that none of the previous four has succeeded in doing—to repeat her American championship while still holding the British.

To the rather small and devoted group who follow ladies' amateur golf, it is not exactly a surprise that Barbara has made such a distinguished mark for herself. Ever since she was 13 years old she has been a tournament golfer—not just a junior golfer but one who competed against the best of all ages. In fact, at 13 she won the ladies' championship at the Heather Downs Country Club in Toledo, where her mother and father both played weekend golf, and then went on to win the consolation round of the Toledo district championships.

Barbara's home pro, Harry Moffitt, was so impressed with his prodigy that one winter morning he awakened Barbara's mother at 6 a.m. and asked if he and his wife could take Barbara to Florida with them. This called for a quick decision, for the Moffitts were going to set out in their car at 9. Mr. and Mrs. Robert McIntire hastily decided it would be a good idea, packed up Barbara and sent her along. That winter Barbara entered the Helen Lee Doherty Tournament at Palm Beach, an event that annually attracts some of the best amateurs in the country. She qualified for the first flight, and though beaten in the first round, went on to win the consolation.

In the summer of that year, when Barbara had reached the ripe old age of 14, she went off to Onwentsia, a course near Chicago, and tied Marlene Bauer, then the ranking member among the younger golf set, for medalist in the women's Western Junior. A year later, then aged 15, Barbara played in her first National Amateur championship. She met Mrs. Glenna Collett Vare, who had won the title an unprecedented six times between 1922 and 1935. "I was so scared I hit a blooper off the first tee," Barbara now recalls with amusement. However, she went on to win the match 3 and 1 from her impressive opponent, one of the best competitors in the history of women's golf even in her later years. Barbara hasn't missed the National Amateur since.

Barbara got her early start in championship golf in a way that most golfing parents will find easy to understand. During the war years, when she was only 9, the McIntires decided to take up golf again after a lengthy layoff. They joined Heather Downs, but on weekends, when they could do most of their playing, they found it was next to impossible to find a baby sitter. So they took Barbara along, and in due course they cut down an old wooden-shafted putter for her to play around with as she traipsed after them.

Like so many other young beginners, Barbara rapidly developed a real talent for golf, and it was only a brief step from the cut-down putter to a primitive set of other cut-down clubs. But Barbara, her parents were not long in discovering, was going to advance faster than the ordinary good golfer. By the time she was 11, she was getting lessons from Moffitt. At 13 she had shot an 85. A year later she was consistently under 80.

For the last 12 years Barbara's whole life has been built around her golf—and, almost inevitably, since she is an only child, her family. Until 1957 Bob McIntire, a friendly, husky, bespectacled man, with an attractive kind of shyness that may have developed from being the only male in the household, ran a furniture and appliance store in Toledo. He sold out that year and moved the family to Lake Park, a small village on the main highway running north out of West Palm Beach. Bob's own father had preceded him to Florida, so the two of them teamed up on a development of modern homes and lots in Juno Beach called Ocean View Ridge, about a three-iron shot from the Seminole Golf Club.

Ocean View Ridge is pretty well built up now, and McIntire is starting another new business—manufacturing industrial magnets for a subsidiary of General Electric. He can use the money to help keep Barbara in amateur golf. The strict laws on amateurism set and enforced by the USGA leave no room for borderline cases between amateurism and professionalism. Barbara has to pay every penny of her expenses in the 10 or 11 tournaments a year in which she competes. These amount to at least $3,000, and in amateur golf—unlike tennis—there is no such thing as free equipment in exchange for thinly disguised endorsements.

Marie McIntire, Barbara's mother, a youthful, dark-haired lady, was Barbara's chaperon at all her out-of-town tournament engagements until Barbara was old enough to get around on her own, and even then Barbara frequently wanted her mother to take the trips as a companion. Mrs. McIntire can tell you almost as much as Barbara can about her daughter's golf, but she is no stage mother in the ordinary sense, ticking off her exploits endlessly. Now and then she tends to forget something vital, as the time recently when someone asked Barbara the lowest score she ever had on a round of golf. Barbara thought it was a 67 she shot at Heather Downs when she was about 18 years old and asked her mother for confirmation: "Mom, when was it I had that 67 at Heather Downs?" Mrs. McIntire didn't even remember the round.

Since moving to Florida, Barbara has played most of her golf at the Tequesta Golf Club, one of the dozens of new residential golfing developments that are now mushrooming throughout Florida and other resort centers. Barbara plays a great deal with the men at Tequesta, for obviously there isn't enough female competition there to keep her game sharp. She likes to play Tequesta, a somewhat shortish course, from the men's tees, and since she is not a particularly long hitter it is quite a job for her to keep up with the better players in the club. Her average score from the men's tees is around 75. "A lot of the men I play with I don't beat," Barbara said recently. "I have to play awfully well to beat them."

If you were to see Barbara playing at Tequesta and didn't know who she was, it is doubtful that you would pick her out as a noted lady athlete. Although she is only 5 feet 6 inches tall, Barbara appears to be taller than that, possibly because of her long, graceful legs. Whenever weather permits she wears neatly tailored shorts, and the general effect of Barbara and her immaculate appearance is that of a girl who has never played a full 18 holes in her life. Her dark brown hair, precisely coiffured in what is known as a wind-blown bob, looks as brushed and combed on the golf course as it does at a dance. The long nails at the end of her long and narrow hands are lacquered in a pale red shade, and she uses her hands often in gentle gestures to emphasize her conversation.

Once she is on her way down the golf course in a tournament, however, a different Barbara McIntire emerges. She strides purposefully along, her shoulders hunched forward, in a gait that is familiar to baseball fans who have watched Andy Carey, the Kansas City third baseman. Usually she carries a cigarette in her hand and plays rapt in a deep concentration. "Over in England," Barbara says, "the other girls used to claim they could tell where I'd been on the course by the trail of cigarette butts. Actually I don't smoke a lot, although I usually have a cigarette burning out of habit. Maybe I only take one or two puffs out of it before I throw it away. It's just one of those things that helps ease the tension."

For Barbara the two toughest things about tournament golf are holding her concentration throughout an entire match and relaxing in between times. Unlike Anne Quast, for instance, who plays the piano to take her mind off tomorrow, Barbara has no particular hobby. "Someone once asked me what my hobby was," Barbara recalls, "and I probably said reading, so now I'm supposed to be a great reader. It's true I do like to read, although I don't read all the latest novels that may win the Pulitzer Prize or anything like that. Mostly though, I just like to sit around and talk to people. I don't seem to have the patience for bridge, and anyway I don't know whether I could ever be very good at it, since I don't take instruction very well."

Barbara is not much more sanguine about her golf game. "I don't do anything real well," she says, "I'm not a long hitter, and I'm not a particularly outstanding iron player. I used to be pretty good out of the sand with my wedge, but now I don't seem to be able to do that very well either. My chipping is the most improved thing about my golf in the last three years. Because I'm not particularly big or strong, I have a much longer backswing than most people do, so that when I bring the club all the way back on my long shots it drops below the horizontal. I will say this: I've putted very well in the tournaments I've won."

One of Barbara's early faults as a golfer was a tendency to feel sorry for an opponent whom she was beating badly. Barbara's father recalls that in a junior tournament during her younger days she once had an opponent badly beaten and then felt so sorry for the girl that she relaxed her game to the point where she lost all the remaining holes and the match.

Barbara almost suffered a repetition of this incident at Royal St. David's in Wales during the final match against Philomena Garvey for "the British," as she always calls it. Eight up with only nine holes to play, she proceeded to drop five of the next six holes and suddenly found herself standing dormy with only three holes to go. However, on the 34th green Miss Garvey three-putted, and Barbara became the new British champion. In this instance, Barbara is quick to explain, she hadn't folded up out of sympathy. During Philomena's hot streak Barbara shot 2 over par. The only trouble was that Philomena was dropping putts from all over the landscape for birdies. The point—and Barbara would be the last to make it—is that she refused to panic.

Some might think that Barbara's training methods are a bit on the haphazard side, but they seem to work for her. For one thing, she is rather casual about practicing when she is home, although she often prepares furiously a few days before an important tournament. "It's awfully hot around here to stand out on the practice tee and hit shot after shot. Also, if you're playing O.K., you might just as well get out there and play. You don't want to leave your good shots on the practice tee, and you don't want to start fiddling with your swing if it is working well."

When she goes out to play, Barbara almost always rides around the course in a cart. She insists, however, that she has no special conditioning formula for getting her legs into shape for the grind of big tournaments. On her recent trip to Europe for the Curtis Cup matches and the British Amateur Championship, Barbara had to play 14 rounds of competitive golf in 17 days, and yet she says she had no trouble with her legs. "The main advantage in using a cart," says Barbara, "is that it makes it possible to play 36 holes a day without getting overtired. And down here in this Florida climate, it isn't easy to walk 36 holes with the sun beating down on you."

When she isn't playing golf Barbara leads the casual life that seems to go with Florida. She likes to lie on the beach, which is only a couple of miles from the McIntire house, and she helps her mother with the household chores and watches television.

Several days a week she works at her father's real estate office, answering the telephone when he is out and typing his letters and occasionally showing real estate and houses to customers. "I was there maybe two days a week all last year," she said the other day, eying her father. "I was pretty faithful about it, wasn't I, Dad?" Bob McIntire nodded, but not too emphatically.

A helpful swain

So far there seems to be no great romance in the life of this very pretty girl. There are those who say she has leanings toward Ernie Boros, younger brother of Julius, who is the pro at Pinehurst. Barbara spent the winter of 1956-57 there, working as a receptionist at the hotel. She is noncommittal on the subject of young Boros, conceding only that he helped her considerably with her golf.

Barbara's best friend is Judy Bell, a Wichita, Kans. girl who is another of the top amateur golfers. During tournaments and on excursions such as the recent tour of Britain, Barbara and Judy pal around together, and after the British Amateur in June they went on a motor trip through Europe with Judy's parents.

When they wound up in Paris, Barbara absent-mindedly left her purse containing her passport and all her travelers' checks in a taxicab. She spent the last three days of her Paris visit waiting in the offices of minor French and U.S. functionaries until the taxi driver finally turned the purse in to the police. It was typical of Barbara's modesty and diffidence about her standing in the world of sport that she suffered all the anxieties of this experience without once going to an important American official and saying: "Look, I'm Barbara McIntire, the American and British Amateur golf champion, and I need some help."


CURTIS CUP GALLERY follows Barbara McIntire's graceful drive in 1960 match.


FIRST INSTRUCTOR, Toledo Pro Harry Moffitt, who started Barbara off in early tournaments, adjusts his student's grip.



This year, after Barbara McIntire won the British Amateur cup, which she holds here, she was not permitted to take it out of England. Barbara will say only that this is the custom, but in 1956, when Wiffi Smith of St. Clair, Mich. won the trophy, she did manage to get it back to the U.S. An American general flew in from Rome, picked up the cup and flew it home for her. After a year a British airline executive appeared at her door and with a friend carted the cup off in the back seat of his car. It has been rumored since that the cup was damaged. If it was, Miss Smith knows nothing about it. She received a letter from the Ladies' Golf Union saying that it had arrived safely in England. Barbara made no effort to get the trophy home. She returned it promptly to its owners and has not seen it since.