Barron’s unique path to professional golf
August 30, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Derek Barron sits seventh on the Order of Merit thanks in part to his win at the Players Cup. (Trevor Hagan/Mackenzie Tour)
The last time Derek Barron played the Mackenzie Investments Open, just outside Montreal, he had 15 stiches in his hand. He almost cut his finger off working on his house.
This time around, no stiches – and he’ll come into the week having just won the previous Mackenzie Tour event to boot.
“It’s nice to see some of that work paying off a little bit. I am ready, however, to get back out there and keep it going,” says Barron. “I kind of just feel like I’ve found a good recipe and I want to see if I’m right.”
The native of Tacoma, Washington captured the Players Cup in Winnipeg, the final event before a two-week break. The Tour returns to action next week for the Mackenzie Investments Open prior to the season finale, the Canada Life Championship, in London, Ontario.
Barron, who sits seventh on the Order of Merit, now has a great chance to earn a spot at the Final Stage of Q-School for the Korn Ferry Tour, as he looks to earn status for the first time.
This would all sound good – save for the 15 stiches – for a golfer who is perhaps in his early 20s and just getting his career started.
Barron is 34.
He is, in a way, just getting his career started – he first picked up competitive golf while in his mid-20’s – and just became a father for the first time. Just because he didn’t come out of college as a budding star doesn’t mean his dream isn’t as vivid as anyone else on the Mackenzie Tour.
“It’s not like I’ve been playing golf since I was two. It hasn’t been my childhood dream to play on the PGA TOUR,” says Barron, “although it is my dream now.”
After his win in Winnipeg, Barron says it’s been great to have so many people come out and say how proud they are of him. People have been sacrificing things for him to succeed, he says, and to that group root for him and to prove what he’s been working on has been correct means a lot.
He’s on the right path, he says, even though it took him a while to find it.
While many of his contemporaries were cutting their teeth on mini-tours and golf’s developmental circuits in their mid-20’s, Barron was working construction.
He looks back on that time without regret.
Although he did well on his SAT, he never wanted to apply that knowledge to working at a desk. Getting a 9-5 job, he says, was never something he wanted. He’s always enjoyed things in his life that were hands-on, and that led him to construction and remodeling.
“That was appealing to me because, one, it’s a skilled trade and that’s a dying breed. Everyone wants tech jobs but I’d be able to (work construction) forever,” he says. “It’s not like people are crawling out of the woodwork to do construction, but if you look at it from the standpoint of career, it’s a well paying job if you’re with the right outfit.”
Barron began playing golf in high school and he had a group that kept asking why he didn’t play in college. He liked golf, he says, but he had a ‘white picket-fence’ mentality when it came to the game. He didn’t want to do it unless he had a ‘Tiger Woods’ kind of story – and all the riches that came along with that.
In 2011 he played in a PGA of America sectional event as an amateur and finished second. He won a few other amateur events that year around Washington that, in the past, PGA TOUR winner Kyle Stanley (who Barron counts as a friend) had won.
Although guys were winning those events at 20 and he was 26, after he finished runner-up at one of the PGA’s Northwest Section’s major events, he knew it was time.
“I was like, ‘you know this is the right time. If I’m going to get into golf as a career… now is the time.’ I joined the section as an apprentice and I was teaching, but I did it to play and make money,” he admits.
“From that moment forward it turned into an obsession. I’ve been someone who has always had aspirations of success – whether you measure than monetarily or whatever,” says Barron. “When I have goals in mind, that’s the ultimate motivator every day.”
Barron has been a member of the Mackenzie Tour the last three years. He also qualified for the U.S. Open in 2017 – and was inside the top-20 after the first day. He says, ironically, the two TOUR events he’s played in (he also qualified for the Famers Insurance Open in 2018) are the two places he’s felt the most comfortable in golf.
“Maybe it’s a subconscious thing,” he says, “I feel I belong there.”
Barron spent most of his time during that U.S. Open talking to Jason Day’s caddie, asking questions on how they prepare for TOUR events. He now bounces things off coach Sean Foley as he gets closer to taking the next step in his professional career.
Foley, who worked with Tiger Woods in the past and still works with Justin Rose and brand-new PGA TOUR member Michael Gligic, has been a very important part of Barron’s development, he says.
Although he’s been instrumental to help get Barron’s mind right, Foley is just one of many in Barron’s corner. Once he committed to golf, he knew exactly what he was capable of. People at home, he says, knew him and how he could shoot rounds in the low 60s with ease.
There’s a learning curve with tournament golf, but he hopes his victory in Winnipeg will be a springboard to a long career – even though he started it a little later than most.
“The guys who played in college, they learned then. I chose to take golf on at this time, so I’m going to be learning as I try to make a living,” he says. “I love golf, but I also like to accomplish. I need a reason to wake up and work towards something in the morning. That’s just me. I’d probably be so ‘blah’ if I had a normal job.”