Barnett, Robert (2010)

About Barnett, Robert (2010)

1896 – 1949.  Robert Barnett, a native Philadelphian, rose to prominence in PGA circles as a founding member and President of two sections, the Philadelphia and the Middle Atlantic.  He served the national PGA as a Vice President between 1944 and 1946 as well.  The Philadelphia Section elected Bob their first President in 1922.  He moved to the Chevy Chase Club in 1923.  The Middle Atlantic PGA (MAPGA) membership elected him President twice, the first time for two consecutive terms, 1926 and 1927, succeeding the legendary Fred McLeod, and the second time in 1933.

Bob Barnett began his professional career as an assistant at the Bala Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia in 1914.  Three years later he took the assistant position at the Pocono Manor Inn.  US Army duty with the Fifty-Fourth Infantry landed him in France for a year as an infantry instructor during World War I.  After the War Bob returned to Pocono Manor as the Head Professional for a year before accepting the head position at Tredyffrin CC in Berwyn, Pa, where he stayed until 1923.  In a 1933 interview Bob reminisced how after the war he spent seven and eight hour practice sessions hitting hundreds of balls day after day to enhance his game.

As a player he won the Philadelphia Section championship twice, 1923 and 1925.  The Philadelphia membership held Bob in such high esteem that even though he took the Chevy Chase position, they invited him to play in their Section championship.  Bob won the 1929 MAPGA Section title besting J. Munro Hunter in the final match, but lost the Sectional title in 1931 to R. Cliff McKimmie.

Nationally, he played in seven US Opens, finishing 35th at Columbia in 1921 followed by a tie for 54th in 1925.  In PGA Championships Bob lost a first round match in 1921, then in 1923 won a first round match before losing.  He qualified for the PGA Championship again in 1924, 1945 and 1946.  Locally, he finished second in the 1948 Maryland Open.  In 1929, he shot a five under 64 on the Chevy Chase layout.

In a history of the The PGA, Herb Graffis cited Bob’s statement to the 1932 National Convention that “There are real-estate men in New York and Chicago who would give the PGA land, a golf course, and a club-house for a club on its own and make a large profit out of what a PGA club would do to increasing the value of surrounding property.”  Certainly, Bob was thinking far ahead of those in his generation.  Furthermore, he served on the 1941 PGA Teaching Program Committee headed up by a future PGA President, Joe Novak.

For about twenty years, Bob held the “winter” Head Professional position at one of South Florida’s premier clubs, Indian Creek in Miami.  During that time two of his “winter” assistants included two future PGA and MAPGA Hall of Fame members: Max Elbin and Bill Strausbaugh Jr.

After World War II when The PGA launched the “Wounded Veteran’s Rehabilitation Program,” Bob not only spearheaded the MAPGA efforts, but served on the National PGA Committee chaired by Frank Sprogell, the PGA Secretary.  Robert Barnett’s contributions to the Middle Atlantic PGA, the Philadelphia PGA and the National PGA continued long after his premature demise in 1949 at age 53.

On a personal side, Bob could whistle with the best of them.  He played golf whistling and when he needed to call a meeting to order or get everyone’s attention, he called on his famous whistling.  (rev. 2011)

The District of Columbia Professional Golfers’ Association, a forerunner of the MAPGA, elected Fred McLeod their first President, and Bob Barnett and Leo Diegel to the first and second Vice Presidents positions in their inaugural meeting in April 1924.  The next year, Bob and McLeod were instrumental figures in the formation of the MAPGA Section in March, 1925, along with Charles Betschler, President of the Maryland State Professional Golfers’ Association.  The Maryland and District of Columbia organizations ceased operations in 1927 and 1928, respectively.