Miller Barber passes away at age 82

June 12, 2013

MILLER BARBER: Champions Tour bio | Your memories of Mr. X?


Miller Barber, who made a record 1,297 combined starts in PGA TOUR and Champions Tour history and was a dominant player after turning 50, died Tuesday at the age of 82.

"We are saddened by the passing of Miller Barber," PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement released Wednesday. "He was a wonderful player who made his mark on the PGA TOUR with 11 victories and then really excelled on Champions Tour becoming one of its best players in the Tour's formative years.  Miller and the Champions Tour's other early stars helped establish the Tour and make it the tremendous success it has become. Golf has lost a great man and competitor."

Barber made 694 starts on the PGA TOUR, winning 11 times. He then made 603 starts on the Champions Tour, winning 24 more times.

Barber ranks fourth on the Champions Tour all-time wins list behind Hale Irwin (45), Lee Trevino (29) and Gil Morgan (25). He won at least one Champions Tour event for nine consecutive years from 1981-89.

Several members of the golf community tweeted their responses on hearing the news of Barber's passing.

Peter Kostis: "Miller Barber was a true gentleman that was special in many ways. I will miss him greatly. Miller...Rest in peace."

Kevin Streelman: "Miller Barber was on my favorite gentlemen I've met thru this great game Ill never forget hang at back range at Whisper Rock under his watch."

Geoff Ogilvy: "Rest in peace Miller Barber. Thanks for all  the tips and stories. The back of the range at Whisper Rock will never be the same."

Born March 31, 1931 in Shreveport, La., Barber graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1954 and turned professional four years later, winning his first PGA TOUR event in 1964, at the Cajun Classic Open Invitational. He added 10 additional TOUR titles and 131 top-10 finishes.

Each of Barber's 11 PGA TOUR wins came in a different season. He claimed at least one victory a year from 1967 to 1974, a feat matched only by Jack Nicklaus during that span, and was the 10th player to surpass the $1 million mark in official PGA TOUR career earnings.

He came close to winning a major championship in 1969 at the U.S. Open outside Houston. Barber held a three-shot lead through 54 holes at Champions Club but shot 78 in the final round to finish three strokes behind winner Orville Moody. He played on U.S. Ryder Cup teams that season and again in 1971, compiling a 1-4-2 record.

Barber enjoyed tremendous success on the Champions Tour a year after that circuit began. He was one of the Tour’s top players throughout the 1980s, leading the money list in 1981 and 1982. His 24 Champions Tour wins included three U.S. Senior Opens and five senior majors overall. He is still the only player with three U.S. Senior Open titles.

Barber’s first Champions Tour victory came in a playoff in Canada at the 1981 Peter Jackson Champions, over Gene Littler. His final official Champions Tour start was at the 2004 SBC Championship, but he continued to play in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf each year. In his last appearance in the event, in the Demaret Division for players 70 and older in 2012, he tied for 11th, with partner Jim Ferree.

Nicknamed "Mr. X," Barber told Golf Digest in 2005 that there were two versions of how he acquired the nickname.

In one version, he assumed the nickname from the original Mr. X, George Bayer, because he once outdrove Bayer in a long drive contest at the then-Hartford Open.

In the other version, Barber said that fellow pro Jim Ferree gave him the nickname because "I never told anywhere where I was going at night. I was a bachelor and a mystery man," prompting Ferree to call him "The Mysterious Mr. X."

Barber was also known for his unique swing. One of his peers once said, "When Barber swings, it looks as if his golf club gets caught in a clothesline."

Barber explained to Golf Digest that "by the time I signed up for lessons when I was 13, the swing I have today was already ingrained. Over the years I tried to change, but I really couldn't play any other way. Jackie Burke says my swing looks like an octopus falling out of a tree, and others say I look like a man opening an umbrella in the wind. But after I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good player. The downswing is all that matters."

He is survived by his wife, Karen, and five children -- Casey, Doug, Brad, Larry and Richard.