With Paul Barkhouse’s recent passing at age 82, the North Shore, Greater Boston and New England golf communities have lost one of the great players — and personalities — of the past half century.
The born-and-raised Lynn Barkhouse 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 military, initially displayed his long-ball prowess by winning successive Tedesco Fourballs with Westy Graves in 1960 and 1961, then emerged as one of the finest champions — and friend to all — during a 53-year career as a New England PGA professional.
And, most importantly, if you met Paul Barkhouse, you were a friend for life. ‘Barkie’ had thousands of friends all over the United States, most from golf, including buddies he made when he played the PGA Tour in 1970 and 1971.
North Shore golf legend Bob Green recently retired after serving as Tedesco Country Club’s head professional for 41 years, thought the world of his colleague and friend.
“I’ve known Paul since I was 14,” said Green. “We all idolized him as kids while Paul ran the junior program, and many of us kept idolizing him as the years passed by. He had such a great way with kids, with everyone actually, always quick to offer help and encouragement when we struggled with our games.
“And what a player he became. He was long before anyone else was long around here, and straight. He won his share of tournaments and he made his mark as an important member of the NEPGA. He was so likable with a happy-go-lucky way about him, as well liked as any professional in the Section.”
Barkhouse enjoyed a distinguished career as a club professional, first as an assistant at White Cliffs, then as Gannon’s assistant at Happy Valley before his unsuccessful fling on the PGA Tour, where he made plenty of friends, even among the big-timers. Just ask John O’Connor, who got his start in the business as Barkhouse’s bag room guy at Ferncroft before he became a 36-year head pro at Far Corner.
“I’ve got a photo of me and Jack Nicklaus in my office thanks to Paul. I was with Paul in Florida one day when he played on the PGA Tour and who says ‘Hey Barkie, how ya doing?’ Jack Nicklaus. That tells you the kind of personality Paul had. Everybody liked him and wanted to know him.”
Barkhouse returned home after his Tour adventure and put together a 45-year stint as head pro at Ferncroft (12 years), Ipswich, Unicorn, Steeplechase in Ohio and 17 years at Woburn before he and wife Nancy, always his erstwhile pro shop assistant, retired in 2017.
“Nancy and I have had a great life together in golf,” Paul shared with this agent. “I could n’t have succeeded without her support from her and without her from her by my side from her.”
He was a larger-than-life personality and a terrific teacher, but Barkhouse is best remembered by most for his playing ability. He was a two-time winner of the NEPGA Wogan Player of the Year award (1969, 1977), winner of the New England Open in 1975, the Massachusetts Open in 1976, the New Hampshire Open in 1969 and 1977, 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 have come in from all directions for the long-time North Andover resident.
“Paul was a fun-loving guy with immense natural talent,” said three-time NEPGA champ and NEPGA Hall of Famer Kirk Hanefeld, the former golf director and instruction director at Salem CC. “He was admired by everyone. He will be sorely missed, but the stories and legend will live forever.”
Steve Napoli, another NEPGA Hall of Famer, said of Barkhouse, “He was one of the most highly respected PGA professionals I’ve ever met. He had a kind and gentle manner and was always willing to help others. He could always put a smile on your face. I have enriched any life I have touched. He was idolized by many for his magical golf and people skills.”
Barkhouse was most proud of the successes achieved by three of his Ferrncroft assistants who went on to lengthy careers as head 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 plenty, but most important 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, Fla.
“His death is a terrible loss for anyone who met Paul just once or knew him for years like me,” said O’Connor. “I have pushed myself to learn all I could about the club pro business, to play, to practice, to go to Florida winters.
“He also did so much for the NEPGA as tournament chairman. He didn’t want to be president of the Section, though he was asked many times to consider it. Yet everyone, all his peers of him, respected his voice of him like they respected his game of him. ”
Added Mike Higgins, executive director of the NEPGA, “Paul was larger than life within the Section family. I have commanded a room. When Paul spoke, whether in telling a joke or expressing a serious opinion, everyone listened. He made everyone he talked 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 of many, who would do anything for anyone; he seemed to never say no. As a contemporary who lost many a golf tournament to Paul, I feel comfortable to say if he could have improved his putting a notch or two, he’d have won everything all the time. He was a wonderful face of the NEPGA, a true ambassador of the game wherever he played.”
Paul is survived by wife Nancy, daughter Tracy and three grandchildren.