SI Vault
Alfred Wright
August 22, 1960
Barbara McIntire, one of golf's prettiest swingers, next week tries for a record third championship
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August 22, 1960

Two Down And One To Go

Barbara McIntire, one of golf's prettiest swingers, next week tries for a record third championship

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Barbara McIntire (see cover) is a 25-year-old native of Toledo, recently transplanted to Lake Park, Fla. What distinguishes her rather remarkably from other pretty girls from Toledo or Lake Park or any other place in the country is her golf, which she plays with such expert command that she is only the fifth woman in history to hold the U.S. and British Amateur championships at the same time. The others were Dorothy Campbell in 1909 and 1911, Pamela Barton in 1936, Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1947 and Louise Suggs in 1948. This week at the Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Barbara will attempt something that none of the previous four has succeeded in doing—to repeat her American championship while still holding the British.

To the rather small and devoted group who follow ladies' amateur golf, it is not exactly a surprise that Barbara has made such a distinguished mark for herself. Ever since she was 13 years old she has been a tournament golfer—not just a junior golfer but one who competed against the best of all ages. In fact, at 13 she won the ladies' championship at the Heather Downs Country Club in Toledo, where her mother and father both played weekend golf, and then went on to win the consolation round of the Toledo district championships.

Barbara's home pro, Harry Moffitt, was so impressed with his prodigy that one winter morning he awakened Barbara's mother at 6 a.m. and asked if he and his wife could take Barbara to Florida with them. This called for a quick decision, for the Moffitts were going to set out in their car at 9. Mr. and Mrs. Robert McIntire hastily decided it would be a good idea, packed up Barbara and sent her along. That winter Barbara entered the Helen Lee Doherty Tournament at Palm Beach, an event that annually attracts some of the best amateurs in the country. She qualified for the first flight, and though beaten in the first round, went on to win the consolation.

In the summer of that year, when Barbara had reached the ripe old age of 14, she went off to Onwentsia, a course near Chicago, and tied Marlene Bauer, then the ranking member among the younger golf set, for medalist in the women's Western Junior. A year later, then aged 15, Barbara played in her first National Amateur championship. She met Mrs. Glenna Collett Vare, who had won the title an unprecedented six times between 1922 and 1935. "I was so scared I hit a blooper off the first tee," Barbara now recalls with amusement. However, she went on to win the match 3 and 1 from her impressive opponent, one of the best competitors in the history of women's golf even in her later years. Barbara hasn't missed the National Amateur since.

Barbara got her early start in championship golf in a way that most golfing parents will find easy to understand. During the war years, when she was only 9, the McIntires decided to take up golf again after a lengthy layoff. They joined Heather Downs, but on weekends, when they could do most of their playing, they found it was next to impossible to find a baby sitter. So they took Barbara along, and in due course they cut down an old wooden-shafted putter for her to play around with as she traipsed after them.

Like so many other young beginners, Barbara rapidly developed a real talent for golf, and it was only a brief step from the cut-down putter to a primitive set of other cut-down clubs. But Barbara, her parents were not long in discovering, was going to advance faster than the ordinary good golfer. By the time she was 11, she was getting lessons from Moffitt. At 13 she had shot an 85. A year later she was consistently under 80.

For the last 12 years Barbara's whole life has been built around her golf—and, almost inevitably, since she is an only child, her family. Until 1957 Bob McIntire, a friendly, husky, bespectacled man, with an attractive kind of shyness that may have developed from being the only male in the household, ran a furniture and appliance store in Toledo. He sold out that year and moved the family to Lake Park, a small village on the main highway running north out of West Palm Beach. Bob's own father had preceded him to Florida, so the two of them teamed up on a development of modern homes and lots in Juno Beach called Ocean View Ridge, about a three-iron shot from the Seminole Golf Club.

Ocean View Ridge is pretty well built up now, and McIntire is starting another new business—manufacturing industrial magnets for a subsidiary of General Electric. He can use the money to help keep Barbara in amateur golf. The strict laws on amateurism set and enforced by the USGA leave no room for borderline cases between amateurism and professionalism. Barbara has to pay every penny of her expenses in the 10 or 11 tournaments a year in which she competes. These amount to at least $3,000, and in amateur golf—unlike tennis—there is no such thing as free equipment in exchange for thinly disguised endorsements.

Marie McIntire, Barbara's mother, a youthful, dark-haired lady, was Barbara's chaperon at all her out-of-town tournament engagements until Barbara was old enough to get around on her own, and even then Barbara frequently wanted her mother to take the trips as a companion. Mrs. McIntire can tell you almost as much as Barbara can about her daughter's golf, but she is no stage mother in the ordinary sense, ticking off her exploits endlessly. Now and then she tends to forget something vital, as the time recently when someone asked Barbara the lowest score she ever had on a round of golf. Barbara thought it was a 67 she shot at Heather Downs when she was about 18 years old and asked her mother for confirmation: "Mom, when was it I had that 67 at Heather Downs?" Mrs. McIntire didn't even remember the round.

Since moving to Florida, Barbara has played most of her golf at the Tequesta Golf Club, one of the dozens of new residential golfing developments that are now mushrooming throughout Florida and other resort centers. Barbara plays a great deal with the men at Tequesta, for obviously there isn't enough female competition there to keep her game sharp. She likes to play Tequesta, a somewhat shortish course, from the men's tees, and since she is not a particularly long hitter it is quite a job for her to keep up with the better players in the club. Her average score from the men's tees is around 75. "A lot of the men I play with I don't beat," Barbara said recently. "I have to play awfully well to beat them."

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