They had a big cake on the 1st tee at last week's Bruno's
Memorial Classic, and written on it was MILLER BARBER, 500TH
EVENT, CONGRATULATIONS. I left it for the other guys to eat. (A
lot of them have sweet tooths.) A bunch of balloons were let go
after I hit my first drive, which I knocked right down the middle.
It was very nice, very thoughtful of people to do that for me.
Everyone still calls me Mr. X, which makes me feel good because
it shows that I'm remembered. I played 610 tournaments on the
regular Tour, and I've entered 500 of the 563 tournaments ever
held on the Senior tour. That's a lot of damn golf. That also
tells you I'm an old so-and-so. My first PGA Tour paycheck,
which I got for finishing 26th at the 1959 El Paso Open, was for
$77.78. I was 28 then.
I probably would've become the director of golf at some big
resort were it not for the creation of the Senior tour in 1980.
I joined in '81, and in those days a lot of people didn't think
we would succeed. We knew we needed big-name players and a
little luck. Every week Tommy Bolt would say, "I've had it! I'm
going to quit." He was an important player, so we would kind of
baby him along, saying, "C'mon, Tommy, you can play."
Back then, Deane Beman, the commissioner, told our players'
committee that he couldn't sell us to television. Nobody got
mad. We just said, "Can we try?" Bob Goalby, who had worked for
NBC, knew all the right people. A new network was starting up
and needed to fill time, and getting on ESPN was a real boost.
If we had it to do over, we would give all PGA Tour winners an
exemption onto the Senior tour. We could have avoided some
lawsuits that way. But overall helping this tour get started has
been very gratifying. I'll try to shoot my age for a couple more
years and quit when I'm 70. I bought a place in Arizona, where
my wife, Karen, and I will probably retire. I'll follow my
beloved Arkansas Razorbacks and the Senior tour on TV.
Miller Barber has 24 Senior wins, including three U.S. Opens.
COLOR PHOTO: KARIM SHAMSI-BASHA