“Bryant was one of the most impactful people shaping the golf history at KCCC. He played with a fierce competitive spirit and a gentleman’s demeanor. I never met anyone who has had a bad thing to say about Bryant. One of the best short games you will ever see!” – KCCC Head Golf Professional Andy Fisher
Last year at this time – Dec. 15th to be exact – our club, The Kansas City Country Club, lost one of our great members, Bryant Barnes. His list of KCCC contributions and accomplishments is as long as it is impressive:
President of The Kansas City Country Club
Chairman of the Green Committee
Chairman of the Long Range Golf Committee
Six-Time Club Golf Champion (1971, ’80, ’82, ’85, ’92 & ’96)
Ten-Time Senior Club Champion
Two-Time Presidents Club Champion (year-long individual match-play event)
Two-Time Crew (Our Member-Member) Champion
Qualifier for the 1978 U.S. Amateur, 1990 U.S. Senior Open and 1997 U.S.G.A. Senior Amateur Championships
Special Note: Bryant and his wife, Mary Jane, were both Club Champions in 1980.
Over the years, I sent Bryant e-mails asking him for golf tips and thoughts or soliciting his opinions about our club and course. And he often sent me thought-you-would-enjoy and you-should-share-with-the-guys emails.
I loved the fact that Bryant would sometimes play with our just-show-up-and-play group on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. When he came, he would simply say, “Put me in on the list.” Unfortunately, I didn’t play with him as often as I would have liked. The problem was that there were too many “special requests” to play with him. There were three reasons for that: 1. He was a walking-and-talking short-game and putting clinic. 2. Everyone knew he was a money player. Hey, winning $10 is a lot better than losing $10. 3) He was fun to watch and fun to listen to. He had stories!
Last year, on Saturday, Nov. 30th, his good friend, Bill Saylor, and I went to Bryant and Mary Jane’s house to talk golf. It was an amazing hour and a half – chatty, sad, instructional, fun, informative – with one of our club’s best-ever golfers. Bryant simply loved the game, loved people who loved the game and loved our club.
Below is a collection of Bryant’s thoughts, insights, tips, observations, beliefs and feelings about golf, golfers and our club that come from our Nov. 30th chat, email exchanges and solicited quotes for the weekly post I send out to many of our members. Bryant was 81 when cancer took his life.
The Collected Wisdom of Bryant Barnes
- On scoring: It probably took me until I was 60 to realize that the real key to scoring is knowing how far I really hit the ball. Most of us have a tendency to under club. For years my distances were pretty consistent, but now I find that I need to adjust every year. Eventually I will be hitting a driver on No. 2. I guess that means I just have to be more clever with my short game. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- On the best players ever at KCCC: When I started my list, I didn’t even put down the most obvious one, Tom Watson. I really do believe this, Les Smith is the most consistent “club” player we have ever had. It’s hard to know how good an amateur career he could have had if he hadn’t spent so much time working. (For the record, Les is a 10-time Club Champion across four decades.) Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Michael Watson has won the Club Championship, which is something Tom has never done. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- One of the questions I've been asking myself the last three or four years is: Why do I like playing on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning with your group of guys? Well, I like to play with different people. You are not going to get better if you are always playing with the same people all of the time. You learn from watching other people’s tendencies and habits. It’s interesting to watch how someone handles the pressure of a four-foot putt. You get better by playing with people who are better than you and it’s made me a better player.
- On the combo tees: Yes, I think they are a good idea, especially for older golfers, but too many guys move up a set and never go back. You should never stop testing yourself. Mix it up. Length isn’t everything. Chipping and putting can save a round. I am 81, but I still play the regular men’s tees. I have swallowed my pride and I do play from shorter tees sometimes and I enjoy it, but you have to challenge yourself by mixing it up. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- Do yourself a favor and look at videos of Tom Watson. Watch how he sets up. His tempo -- it’s so consistent. He can thank his father (Ray) and Stan (Thirsk, who was the KCCC head professional from 1961 to 1992) for that. Of course, he was talented, but he worked and worked on his game. Tom is tough. I loved his pace of play. Make a decision and go. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- There are two things you’ve got to remember about a golf course – and this is not original. Let's say that you're invited out of town to play XYZ golf course. When you come back home your friends are asking about playing XYZ golf course. They want to know what you liked the most about the course and what you liked least about the course. And the thing almost everyone grades first is the greens. So the No. 1 objective of any club should be is to take really special care of them. The second thing? The look. The feel. Does the course look like it is cared for? (Nov. 30, 2019)
- I know this may seem obvious, but if you want to get better, take lessons. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- I have had big days on the golf course, but my biggest days have always been about family – the day I got married to Mary Jane, having kids, my grandchildren, holidays. I have been blessed. I have so many great memories of family and friends. Your memories are forever. (Nov. 30, 2019)
- Learn how to chip from 10 to 15 yards from off the green. To me, it’s the hardest shot in the game. (From a May 2019 email he sent after reading about one of my dismal weekend rounds.)
- I won the Club Championship when it was a match-play tourney. Medal play is another story. In my opinion, don’t try to create the heroic shot. It will often come back to haunt you. Take your bogey and move on. The best putter wins most of the time. (From an October 2019 weekly post about our upcoming Club Championship.)
- Cannot remember what hole it is at Port Rush. Don’t be long. Two feet back of the green is a 50-foot cliff. Your caddie will know what hole I am talking about. Have a great trip. – Bryant
(This was sent to me days before leaving on a golf trip to Ireland in Sept. 2018.)
- In March 2018, when asked to share his thoughts about our golf course, Bryant wrote: Our greens are small, which makes scoring tough. Why was Tom Watson such a good iron player? Our bunkers are on the side of the greens and that makes them (the greens) even smaller. But for the 18 handicapper, you can roll it on most of the greens. We used to have the U.S. Am qualifying each year, set the pins in certain places and you add three or four strokes. We lack the distance, but it’s a par 70 at 6800 yards. It plays to a 72 some say. I have been playing this golf course since 1947 or 48 and it’s still fun to play. If I had one round left in me, it would be this course.
- As KCCC’s old pro Paul Weiler (before Stan Thirsk), said, “Swing inside out, keep your head down and follow through.” Sounds easy, but it’s not. (From a 2017 weekly post on swing thoughts.)
- Playing golf with your wife is fun, but don’t give her lessons. I have to credit Stan (Thirsk) for making a great marriage even better when he taught Mary Jane how to play golf. She was not going to listen to me. It was like teaching your high-school girlfriend how to drive a stick shift car. It was something you never did.” (From a 2016 weekly posting.)
- Watched this movie (Seven Days in Utopia) the other night. Got lots of golf wisdom in it. I also read the book at the urging of John Helmker several years ago. There is a great phrase in the book that maybe should be in your quote book: “It’s SFT -- See it, feel it, trust it.” Say that before every swing and I bet one would take off several strokes per round. Good golfing. – Bryant (From a 2014 email.)
- I saw this quote in an article (“The Privilege of Playing Golf”). It’s so true: “Enjoy the game and the friends you make along the way!” -- Bryant(From a December 2012 email.)
- This is a great quote for you to share sometime. It’s from Bagger Vance: “Golf is a game that cannot be won, it’s only played.” -- Bryant (From a March 2012 email.)
So here’s a toast to my friend Bryant: Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me and our friends for so many years. We miss you! And here’s to all of our golf buddies who are no longer with us.