From the verge of opening a gym, Blayne Barber back on the road chasing TOUR return
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Monday qualified into HomeTown Lenders Championship, finished T7 to set up his season
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Blayne Barber and his wife, Morgan, found out early last year that they were pregnant for the fourth time. He didn’t keep his Korn Ferry Tour card by the end of the season and decided not to pursue Q-School. At 33 and with some other business prospects on his desk, it felt time for a natural break from the game. The deadline for Q-School came and went, and that was closure.
Until it wasn’t.
Barber, who won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2014, was advised he had conditional status through 2024 due to the seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He had clarity but there were plenty of big variables wrapped in a small word: ‘If.’ If he got into an event, if he made a cut, if he earned some points, he could build a schedule.
And with a tie for seventh at the HomeTown Lenders Championship in late April, Barber’s got exactly that. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Barber said a turning point for him was playing a mini-tour event in Huntsville the week prior. It was a different golf course than the Korn Ferry Tour’s host venue at The Ledges, but it was a full-field event that had a cut. Playing three days consecutively, versus just one-off Monday qualifiers, showed him that his game was in a good spot. He got into the Monday qualifier for the HomeTown Lenders Championship with confidence, and when he earned a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour field, it was just time to execute on what he had been working towards for the last half-year or so.
“It felt very normal, and it felt exciting and certainly something I had been dreaming about off the course in terms of my practice and preparation and feeling like I was ready to take that step and play in an event,” Barber said. “I had been playing so many Mondays that a one-day snapshot of your game is tough to assess in a holistic manner.
“I kept feeling like there was good stuff in there, but the Mondays are so tough that you can shoot 69 and be five shots out of contention.”
Blayne Barber on his decision to return to professional golf
While Barber now has a semblance of a future, he’d be remiss if he didn’t bring up his not-so-distant past.
Funny enough, just as Barber was enjoying a week off from the Korn Ferry Tour before its season begins again in two weeks, Max Homa talked at the Wells Fargo Championship about the complicated love-hate relationship with golf. It’s something Barber could absolutely relate to, he said, with a family at home and just recently having one foot out the door of the professional-golf grind.
“There are things about golf that I don’t love, but I can’t escape that. That’s life,” he said. “The irony is that my game probably feels as good as it ever has, and I’m as committed as I’ve ever been and I’m working really hard.
“At the same time, I’ve had a few conversations in the business world and up until last week, grinding in these Monday qualifiers, I’m thinking, practically, ‘Should I be doing this? I’m not making any money. I’ve got four kids. I’ve got a family to care for.’ I want people to hear and know that it’s not just that simple.”
The confidence and self-belief and hard work continue to push Barber to those moments of success, but they don’t come without the reality of questioning whether he should actually keep playing. He kept it up, though, and had a steadfast determination to at least give it a try. So, he had a good Monday qualifier, he had a good tournament, and now he’s eager to capitalize.
Back to Homa’s comments about golf (At the Wells Fargo he said, in part, “I’m not so sure I love golf anymore, but I love competing and getting better so much, so golf provides the platform for that”), and Barber said he had that same passion Homa did as a kid. It’s a job now, and Barber knows this summer of work on the Korn Ferry Tour isn’t going to be easy.
“Jobs come with difficulties and time commitments and time away from family. So, I want to do something that pours into my family’s thriving and not detracts from it,” Barber said. “I’m 33, I’m in good health, my body feels good, I didn’t make this decision because I completely lost my game or I was injured. I can pursue other things in my mid-to-late 30s, but it felt like now there was a lot of clarity in my mind and this was the time to do it and redirect how the last couple years have gone with golf.”
Barber said he’s reconnected with old relationships like coaches and a caddie. He continues to be the volunteer women’s coach at Auburn and although he was quite close to pursuing another business venture – he was far down the line talking to a general contractor about a facility he was going to turn into a gym – that’s on hold now as he’s returned to golf-as-life and golf-as-work.
His kids will be out of school starting in mid-May and Barber already has a few events circled on the calendar where the whole family could travel together. He said he’s focused this year instead on quality versus quantity for his events – courses and places he loves going to. Barber’s plan is not to chase a TOUR card by grinding every week.
Barber had his own issues with golf over the last couple of years. An equipment change here, a swing adjustment there. He is a Type-A personality, he said, and when he kept working hard and got no results, he was “confounded” at why. There were flashes of good play, but he said he mostly felt lost.
But once was lost, now is found.
“I feel, at this point, I could write a book on life and golf and the journey and the psychology and the ups and downs because I’ve been on every side of this crazy game,” Barber said. “Of all the things in my life I’m proficient in … God has given me an inclination to (play golf) well and enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it and the emotional control and mental strain and hours of practice. I’m good at this.”