If you were to see Barbara playing at Tequesta and didn't know who she was, it is doubtful that you would pick her out as a noted lady athlete. Although she is only 5 feet 6 inches tall, Barbara appears to be taller than that, possibly because of her long, graceful legs. Whenever weather permits she wears neatly tailored shorts, and the general effect of Barbara and her immaculate appearance is that of a girl who has never played a full 18 holes in her life. Her dark brown hair, precisely coiffured in what is known as a wind-blown bob, looks as brushed and combed on the golf course as it does at a dance. The long nails at the end of her long and narrow hands are lacquered in a pale red shade, and she uses her hands often in gentle gestures to emphasize her conversation.
Once she is on her way down the golf course in a tournament, however, a different Barbara McIntire emerges. She strides purposefully along, her shoulders hunched forward, in a gait that is familiar to baseball fans who have watched Andy Carey, the Kansas City third baseman. Usually she carries a cigarette in her hand and plays rapt in a deep concentration. "Over in England," Barbara says, "the other girls used to claim they could tell where I'd been on the course by the trail of cigarette butts. Actually I don't smoke a lot, although I usually have a cigarette burning out of habit. Maybe I only take one or two puffs out of it before I throw it away. It's just one of those things that helps ease the tension."
For Barbara the two toughest things about tournament golf are holding her concentration throughout an entire match and relaxing in between times. Unlike Anne Quast, for instance, who plays the piano to take her mind off tomorrow, Barbara has no particular hobby. "Someone once asked me what my hobby was," Barbara recalls, "and I probably said reading, so now I'm supposed to be a great reader. It's true I do like to read, although I don't read all the latest novels that may win the Pulitzer Prize or anything like that. Mostly though, I just like to sit around and talk to people. I don't seem to have the patience for bridge, and anyway I don't know whether I could ever be very good at it, since I don't take instruction very well."
Barbara is not much more sanguine about her golf game. "I don't do anything real well," she says, "I'm not a long hitter, and I'm not a particularly outstanding iron player. I used to be pretty good out of the sand with my wedge, but now I don't seem to be able to do that very well either. My chipping is the most improved thing about my golf in the last three years. Because I'm not particularly big or strong, I have a much longer backswing than most people do, so that when I bring the club all the way back on my long shots it drops below the horizontal. I will say this: I've putted very well in the tournaments I've won."
One of Barbara's early faults as a golfer was a tendency to feel sorry for an opponent whom she was beating badly. Barbara's father recalls that in a junior tournament during her younger days she once had an opponent badly beaten and then felt so sorry for the girl that she relaxed her game to the point where she lost all the remaining holes and the match.
Barbara almost suffered a repetition of this incident at Royal St. David's in Wales during the final match against Philomena Garvey for "the British," as she always calls it. Eight up with only nine holes to play, she proceeded to drop five of the next six holes and suddenly found herself standing dormy with only three holes to go. However, on the 34th green Miss Garvey three-putted, and Barbara became the new British champion. In this instance, Barbara is quick to explain, she hadn't folded up out of sympathy. During Philomena's hot streak Barbara shot 2 over par. The only trouble was that Philomena was dropping putts from all over the landscape for birdies. The point—and Barbara would be the last to make it—is that she refused to panic.
Some might think that Barbara's training methods are a bit on the haphazard side, but they seem to work for her. For one thing, she is rather casual about practicing when she is home, although she often prepares furiously a few days before an important tournament. "It's awfully hot around here to stand out on the practice tee and hit shot after shot. Also, if you're playing O.K., you might just as well get out there and play. You don't want to leave your good shots on the practice tee, and you don't want to start fiddling with your swing if it is working well."
When she goes out to play, Barbara almost always rides around the course in a cart. She insists, however, that she has no special conditioning formula for getting her legs into shape for the grind of big tournaments. On her recent trip to Europe for the Curtis Cup matches and the British Amateur Championship, Barbara had to play 14 rounds of competitive golf in 17 days, and yet she says she had no trouble with her legs. "The main advantage in using a cart," says Barbara, "is that it makes it possible to play 36 holes a day without getting overtired. And down here in this Florida climate, it isn't easy to walk 36 holes with the sun beating down on you."
When she isn't playing golf Barbara leads the casual life that seems to go with Florida. She likes to lie on the beach, which is only a couple of miles from the McIntire house, and she helps her mother with the household chores and watches television.
Several days a week she works at her father's real estate office, answering the telephone when he is out and typing his letters and occasionally showing real estate and houses to customers. "I was there maybe two days a week all last year," she said the other day, eying her father. "I was pretty faithful about it, wasn't I, Dad?" Bob McIntire nodded, but not too emphatically.