Jumping Into The Spotlight
“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” is Chris Barber’s summary of his life so far. In 34 years the Kingston based Class A CPGA professional has had some impressive accomplishments and although he sometimes made it look pretty easy – be assured that a lot of work has gone into his success.
On one hand Chris is the General Manager of a thriving golf facility, The Landings Golf & Teaching Centre, and for thirty rounds of golf a year he gets to be a tournament player. The latter is a role he has exploited quite effectively. Since turning professional in the fall of 2004 he has already racked up two CPGA Ottawa Zone Championships and two wins on the Quebec professional circuit. But for Chris the real success has been balancing all that with a life as a husband and father of a seven year old daughter. “Without them and the sacrifices they make I couldn’t do what I do,” he says referring to wife Fran and daughter Madison.
His recent success in Quebec has also been a bit of sentimental journey for Barber. Several events are played in the Eastern Townships and it is there where his family roots lie. He spent many a winter on the ski slopes of Sutton (his grandparents lived near the bottom of the mountain) and says that being able to play golf there certainly brings back some fond memories. “Getting back, certainly to the Eastern Townships, is a nice way to reconnect with those days. It’s a special place for me.”
It’s hard to believe that Barber has been prompting golf headlines in Eastern Ontario for almost 20 years. He demonstrated his emerging golfing abilities in his late teens as an amateur and just seems to get better every year. In fact, Chris says his evolution has been startling, even to him. “I look back and see the type of player I was then (as an amateur) and I wonder how I even had the success I did.”
Business interests took Chris’ parents (Jim and Astrid) to Kingston, Ontario when Chris was a toddler. Eventually they would come to be involved heavily in the computer business and Chris, even at an early age, says he always got a sound education in business from his parents. He points to their guidance as something that has served him well through his schooling and today as a General Manager. “Business was important but we (Chris has a brother Tim who is a Real Estate Agent) were taught to work hard and we were fortunate, our parents were always there. I’m grateful for that; they gave us a lot of opportunities.”
One of those opportunities was the introduction to golf. Astrid took Chris over to the local par three course a few times for fun. Jim enjoyed golf as well and he was a member at Cataraqui Golf & Country Club, the venerable private layout with a strong Stanley Thompson influence that lays adjacent to Lake Ontario. When Chris was ten the family was living in the west end of the city and one of his classmates just happened to be the son of Cataraqui’s then head professional, Keith Thomas. Chris says the pair, along with a couple other classmates, formed a little band of golfers and soon he was playing more frequently, between softball games and other activities.
By the time Chris got to high school he came to the realization that it might be time to pick a sport and really stick with it. “I enjoyed golf, the individual aspect of it. I enjoyed the success and I don’t mean tournament success. I am talking about setting goals and reaching them. It could mean winning a hot dog off your buddy but that makes it fun. The more I played the more I really, really enjoyed it.”
Chris had some great influences for his game right form the start. He says his first formal lesson was with John Boyle at the Amherstview Golf Club but a greater impression was made on him by the assistants that worked at Cataraqui, in particular he mentions Rob Knights.
“I worked with Robbie for a couple years,” Chris says. “It was more than just golf. Not only did he instil in me the mechanics of swinging the golf club but a lot of how to play golf. It really helped me to develop to a point where I could hit a ball and knew where it was going. He showed me that there was potential to enhance your life with golf and not necessarily have to be a professional golfer.”
At first Chris’s success was limited to junior play but when he was 16 he had a watershed moment when he won the Cataraqui Field Day, an event that always draws a strong field. “It was the first time I realized I could compete outside of junior golf. I was nervous playing with guys like Gord Percy and Jeff Mills (both now golf pros) but it was fun. That helped me to see what could be possible if I kept working at it.”
By eighteen he had still not broken out at the provincial or national level but he felt he was ready for the next step, and with the guidance of several people, and the support of his parents, he set off to NOVA University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
At first it was quite an adjustment for Chris, not for the school work but for the lifestyle, being on his own for the first time. Luckily team-mate and fellow Canadian Dan Keogh took him under his wing. They remain friends to this day. “Danny was great and we had an amazing team that year, probably the best I ever played on.”
Keogh, who went on to play the Canadian Tour, caddied for Mike Weir on the PGA Tour, and became the President of a major Canadian Golf Apparel company has nothing but great things to say about Chris and echoes the comments many make of this fine competitor. “He’s a very determined competitor and is one of those very quiet players with great determination on the course. I got to know his parents very well over the years and always looked forward to seeing them in the summers when we played a couple of events together. Chris is as respectful a competitor as I’ve ever met and his sincerity in others success always stuck with me.”
Chris eventually transferred to DePaul University in Chicago, compiling three NCAA tournaments wins before graduating from their exalted Business program. Each summer he would return home where his game really blossomed.
Despite his early frustration at the provincial level, Chris eventually played in 11 straight Ontario amateurs, a feat matched by few. By 1999 he was the 6th ranked amateur in the province. He would also participate in the British Amateur and qualify for two United States Amateur Championships. Unfortunately for Chris both those US appearances coincided with the presence and triumph of one Tiger Woods but the experiences will remain with him forever. “It is just incredible to have been a part of all that history, even in just some little way,” Chris relates. He would also tally many other amateur wins including the Whig Standard Championship, the Flagstick Garrison Open, multiple Cataraqui Club Championships, and various other titles.
In 1999 Chris had hit the working world at The Landings, a venture initiated by his family that has become a popular Kingston golf destination. With a deep interest in the business and not much left to play for in amateur golf he turned pro in 2004 and hasn’t looked back.
By his record so far, it looks like he may the right choice. With a close family and successes both on the golf course and in the golf industry, Chris Barber is pretty content with his place in the world.
Those who know him have seen how hard he has worked to get there, and how appreciative he is for his good fortune. And now that his professional career is on the rise, he clearly deserves every reward that might just come his way.