By PGATOUR.COM staff
Blayne Barber is making the most of an opportunity.
Barber carded a 6-under 66 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com and is one shot back of co-leaders Andres Romero and Cameron Percy.
Barber made headlines a few months ago after he disqualified himself from the first stage of q-school. Barber determined that he incorrectly penalized himself one shot instead of two.
Playing on a sponsor's exemption this week, Barber made eight birdies and two bogeys in Round 1 in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. He Monday qualified for the Northern Trust Open and finished T42.
"I played really well, gave myself a lot of opportunities on the front and was able to make some putts and turn at 5 under and then kept it going on the back, played really well," Barber said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Blayne Barber had to survive a pre-qualifer as well as Monday qualifying to earn his spot in this week's Northern Trust Open.
But there is more to his story, much more. Barber, you may or may not recall, was the player who disqualified himself after seemingly advancing out of the first stage of last year's PGA TOUR qualifying school.
During his second round at Callaway Gardens, Barber thought he had touched a leaf in a greenside bunker so he accessed himself a one-stroke penalty. In talking with his roommate that evening, though, he discovered the penalty should have been two strokes.
Still, Barber wasn't entirely certain the infraction had occurred. His brother Shayne, who was caddying for him, didn't think the former Auburn All-American had breached the rule which only added to the confusion.
Complicating the issue even more was the fact that this was the final q-school that afforded any PGA TOUR playing privileges -- starting with 2013 it's the path to the Web.com Tour.
"Obviously q-school being such a big stage and it being my livelihood and my career beginning, I pondered it a lot and thought that I might have just been psyching myself out and it wasn't a big deal," Barber said.
So the 23-year-old talked with an official and told him he might have signed for a score higher than he shot. Barber was told, no worries, just move on. So he played the rest of the week and tied for fourth to advance to the second stage. But the story didn't end there.
"Over the next five or six days, (I) really thought about it a lot and just did not feel peace about it," Barber said. "Did not feel comfortable with the decision that I had made at the time, and knew that I had incurred that penalty and I just gave myself a one-shot penalty instead of two."
So six days later Barber called the PGA TOUR headquarters and disqualified himself. Six other players advanced, as a result. He moved on to the mini-tours and won his next two events.
"After it happened, I just felt very good about it," Barber said. "I knew that I had done what was right in my own heart, and I just moved on from it. I didn't really think of it as a deterrent at all. I just knew that it was a learning experience, a critical learning experience, and it caused some problems.
"But it's just a part of the process and I'm still young and still have a lot of golf ahead of me."
The Northern Trust Open will be Barber's first PGA TOUR event. He said he actually felt more pressure during the pre-qualifier, where he shot 66 to advance, than on Monday, when he felt he had nothing to lose and shot 65.
If Barber makes the cut this week, though, he won't have to pre-qualify anymore. So scheduling will be easier because he won't need to skip a mini-tour event the previous week and can go directly to the Monday qualifier. He's had success at Riviera before, too -- tying for seventh at the 2012 NCAAs.
Barber says the decision to disqualify himself actually turned into a positive. He received a lot of support from fans and several current TOUR players texted the former Walker Cupper to say they respected the fact that he upheld the integrity of the game.
Barber is also comfortable with the fact that more people will probably remember him for this turn of events than the sterling amateur credentials he amassed.
"I'm okay with it, because ultimately I want to convey that I just feel like I'm following my calling and playing for the glory of God and I just want that to be the focus of my career and what I'm doing," he said.
"So it gives me a platform; and I've had a lot of kids and parents and schoolteachers and whatever come to me and say, thank you for doing what you did and thank you for doing the right thing."