With the recent passing of Paul Barkhouse at the age of 82, the golf communities of North Shore, Greater Boston and New England have lost one of the great players – and personalities – of the past half-century.
The Barkhouse-born and raised Lynn grew up as a player under the expert tutelage of Larry Gannon at Happy Valley Golf Course, won the German Open as a member of the US Army, first showed his long-ball prowess by winning successive Tedesco Fourballs with Westy Graves in 1960 and 1961, then became one of the best champions – and friend of all – during a 53-year career as a PGA professional from New England.
And, most importantly, if you met Paul Barkhouse, you were a friend for life. “Barkie” had thousands of friends all over the United States, mostly from golf, including friends he made when he played on the PGA Tour in 1970 and 1971.
North Shore golfing legend Bob Green recently retired after being the head pro at Tedesco Country Club for 41 years, his colleague and friend’s world thought.
“I’ve known Paul since I was 14,” Green said. “We all idolized him as a kid while Paul ran the junior program, and many of us have continued to idolize him over the years. He had such a great way with the kids, with everyone in did, always ready to offer help and encouragement when we were struggling with our games.
“And what a player he has become. He was long before anyone else was here, and straight. He has won his share of tournaments and he has made his mark as an important member of NEPGA. He was so friendly with a carefree air, as appreciated as any professional in the section.
Barkhouse enjoyed a distinguished career as a club professional, first as an assistant at White Cliffs and then as Gannon’s assistant at Happy Valley before his unsuccessful venture on the PGA Tour, where he made many friends, even among the great players. Just ask John O’Connor, who got his start in the business as Barkhouse’s baggage hall manager at Ferncroft before becoming head pro for 36 years at Far Corner.
“I have a picture of me and Jack Nicklaus in my office thanks to Paul. I was with Paul in Florida one day when he was playing on the PGA Tour and who said ‘Hey Barkie, how are you?’ Jack Nicklaus. That tells you what kind of personality Paul had. Everyone loved him and wanted to know him.
Barkhouse returned home from his Tour adventure and spent 45 years as a head pro at Ferncroft (12), Ipswich, Unicorn, Steeplechase in Ohio and 17 years at Woburn before he and his wife Nancy , still his former pro shop assistant, retired in 2017.
“Nancy and I have had a great life together in golf,” Paul shared with this agent. “I could not have succeeded without her support and without her by my side.”
He was a larger than life personality and a terrific teacher, but Barkhouse is best known for his acting ability. He was twice winner of the NEPGA Wogan Player of the Year award (1969, 1977), winner of the New England Open in 1975, of the Massachusetts Open in 1976, of the New Hampshire Open in 1969 and 1977, of the Maine Open in 1972 and 1974 , the NEPGA Match Play in 1981 and 1984, and the PGA Club Professional Series in 1980. He was NEPGA Senior Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999.
Tributes came from all directions for the longtime North Andover resident.
“Paul was a fun-loving guy with tremendous natural talent,” said Kirk Hanefeld, three-time NEPGA champion and NEPGA Hall of Famer, former director of golf and director of instruction at Salem CC. “He was admired by everyone. He will be greatly missed, but the stories and the legend will live forever.
Fellow NEPGA Hall of Famer Steve Napoli said of Barkhouse, “He was one of the most respected PGA professionals I have ever met. He had a kind and gentle manner and was always ready to help others. He could always put a smile on your face. He enriched every life he touched. He was idolized by many for his magic golf and people skills.
Barkhouse was proudest of the success achieved by three of his Ferrncroft assistants who went on to long careers as chief pros themselves: O’Connor, Brian Gilchrist and Paul Ballard.
“Barkie was one of a kind. The atmosphere changed when he entered a room. He taught me a lot, but most importantly he showed me how to treat people,” said Gilchrist, a Happy Valley product and the head pro at Flamingo Lakes Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
“His death is a terrible loss for anyone who has only met Paul once or known him for years like I have,” O’Connor said. “He pushed me to learn everything I could about the pro club business, to play, to train, to spend the Florida winters.
“He has also done a lot for NEPGA as tournament chairman. He didn’t want to be chapter president, although he was repeatedly asked to think about it. Yet everyone, all of his peers, respected his voice as they respected his playing.”
Mike Higgins, NEPGA Chief Executive, added: “Paul was larger than life in the Section family. He commanded a room. When Paul spoke, whether telling a joke or expressing a serious opinion, everyone listened. He made everyone he spoke to feel important. He was a true NEPGA legend who impacted so many lives.
Joe Carr, another NEPGA Hall of Famer, said of Barkhouse: “a great friend of mine and many, who would do anything for anyone; he never seemed to say no. As a contemporary who lost numerous golf tournaments to Paul, I’m comfortable saying that if he could have improved his putt a notch or two, he would have won it all all the time. He was a wonderful face of NEPGA, a true ambassador for the game wherever he played.
Paul is survived by his wife Nancy, his daughter Tracy and three grandchildren.