Hall of Fame/Jim Barnes

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Tacoma, WA

Inducted: 1981

Born in Cornwall, England, Jim Barnes came to the United States in 1906 and became one of the world’s finest players. He won the first PGA Championship in 1916, defeating Jock Hutchinson in the final match, and successfully defended the title in 1919 after a two year lapse due to World War I. Jim won $500 and a diamond medal for each victory. He won the 1921 U.S. Open, defeating Walter Hagen by eight strokes at Chevy Chase Club, near Washington D.C., and the 1925 British Open at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. He was a four time champion of the Northwest Open. Jim was the golf professional at Tacoma Country & Golf Club from 1911 to 1915.

Long Jim Barnes: His impact upon American Golf and the Pacific Northwest

by Bob Denney, PGA Historian Emeritus

The migration of golf professionals from the United Kingdom and Ireland to America at the turn of the 20th century defined the landscape of American golf and the early PGA of America.

At its founding on April 10, 1916, there were 28 of 35 PGA Charter Members born outside the United States. Jim Barnes, one of the earliest PGA Members, left an indelible mark in the PGA and just ahead of the birth of the Pacific Northwest PGA Section.

Born April 8, 1886, in Lelant, Cornwall, England, Barnes caddied at the former Lelant Golf Links (today’s West Cornwall Golf Club), where he was later hired as a clubmaker’s apprentice and assistant professional. Barnes worked at the club from 1902-06.

Barnes, who stood 6-foot-4 and one of the tallest professional golfers of his era, began his journey in professional golf via the sea, crossing the Atlantic in December 1906. He sailed on the SS Carmania from Liverpool to New York City.

He then bought a train ticket to San Francisco, where he had accepted a job as a professional at the Claremont Country Club, across the Bay in Oakland. That was the first of 14 golf facilities covering eight states and Canada where Barnes left an imprint first as an instructor and opportunistic club professional. After two seasons in Claremont, Barnes moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to land a position at the Jericho Golf and Country Club. After a short stay in Canada, he accepted similar posts in the state of Washington – first at the Spokane Golf Club in Spokane and then at the Tacoma Golf Club. He would later move to the Broadmoor Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, followed by an opportunity back east at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in Philadelphia. As the years passed by, Barnes was also employed at a number of golf clubs in New York, Missouri, and Florida.

From 1907-1914, Barnes combined his quest for the next best club professional job with his prowess on the course. He won four Pacific Northwest Opens between 1909-13; was runner-up in the 1912 Canadian Open, and had a top-20 finish in his U.S. Open debut in 1912.

The 1913 U.S. Open, in which amateur Francis Ouimet defeated professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff, was rightfully a groundbreaking event for American golf.

If you check further down the leaderboard at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, you’ll find Barnes tied for fourth with Walter Hagen, Macdonald Smith, and Louis Tellier – three strokes from the playoff.

In 1916, the PGA of America organized in January and formed a constitution on April 10, all in New York City. The first U.S. all-professional national golf association held two championships that year, and Barnes won them both. The story about each PGA-sanctioned championship is a significant one, with Barnes in the middle of each.

On July 20, Barnes was playing out of Whitemarsh Valley Country Club near Philadelphia, and captured the PGA Championship at VanCortlandt Park. It was a medal play event, and Barnes posted a 72-hole total of 276.

The event did not have a national qualifying system in place, and PGA benefactor Rodman Wanamaker outlined that the PGA Championship he was envisioning and funding would be a match-play event. It featured a national qualifying plan among the existing seven Sections. Barnes posted a 36-hole qualifying score of 147 in Delaware. Meanwhile, Wanamaker covered the travel expenses for the 32 players who competed Oct. 10-14, at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York.

In the first round, Barnes defeated George Fotheringham, 8-and-7, and in the second round, by the same score, he dispatched 2-time major winner Alex Smith. In the quarterfinals, Barnes beat Tom Kerrigan, 3 and 1, and in the semifinals he defeated Willie Macfarlane, 6 and 5.

That led to a championship match against Jock Hutchison, the man with whom Barnes had tied for medalist in the stroke-play qualifier. Barnes was down four after eight holes, but rallied to be 1 down after the morning 18. In the afternoon, Barnes took his first lead after the 25th hole, but after the 33rd was one down again.

Barnes squared it on the 35th hole, and on the final hole of the match made a four-foot putt to win the hole, the match, and the first PGA Championship. He was the first to be presented the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy.

Barnes often played golf with a sprig of clover hanging from his mouth. The New York Times picked up on his habit in 1916:

"All that Barnes needs to win a golf tournament is a golf course, a putter, and a liberal supply of the clover leaves that he carries in the corner of his mouth."

Barnes won multiple professional events that are not credited by the PGA Tour as official tour victories. Those include the 1921 California State Open and, at age 53, the 1939 New Jersey State Open. He also won the Pacific Northwest Open four times (1909, 1911-13).

The PGA Championship paused for World War I, and resumed in 1919. Barnes joined many of his contemporaries in supporting the wartime efforts of the U.S., England and France, playing exhibition matches which served as fundraisers for the Red Cross. The PGA earmarked that the match proceeds would help buy ambulances.

At war’s end, Barnes was working at the Sunset Hills Golf Club in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1919, Barnes was the world’s finest player. He won the North and South Open, the Shawnee Open, the Western Open - then considered a major – and successfully defended his PGA Championship.

Barnes went on to win the 1921 U.S. Open by nine strokes at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. President Warren Harding was awaiting Barnes, who would become the only men’s major champion to receive a trophy by a sitting U.S. president.

With a victory in the 1925 Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland, Barnes became the only English-born golf professional to win three different modern major championships.

Barnes posted 20 top-10 finishes in 34 majors. His stellar career also includes victories in three Western Opens (1914, ’17, ’19) and two North and South Opens (1916, ’19), both considered of major status at the time.

Barnes was 48 years old when The Masters began in 1934, and never competed.

Barnes was not necessarily well-liked by all of his peers due to a sometimes brusque or curt manner. He rarely spoke to his fellow-competitors or opponents during competitive rounds. But Barnes was respected by all. Gene Sarazen, who didn't care for Barnes at all personally, rated him "the finest 5-iron player he had ever seen," according to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Many years later, Sarazen revealed that Barnes’ financial advice saved him. Barnes advised Sarazen to pull his funds from the bank prior to the 1929 Wall Street crash that led to the Great Depression.

Barnes is one of 17 golfers who have won at least three of golf’s four professional majors. The honored list includes: Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy.

When legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice charged the PGA of America to create its Hall of Fame, the Association responded in 1940. Barnes was among the inaugural class of inductees and would be later given his berth (1989) in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Barnes competed in his last professional major at the 1932 U.S. Open where he finished 55th. He won the 1939 New Jersey State Open at age 53.

Though a U.S. citizen, Barnes was not eligible to compete in the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America required its players to be born in the U.S. and the British PGA mandated that its players be affiliated with clubs in Great Britain.

By 1931, four years after the inaugural Ryder Cup, it was discovered that U.S. Team member Johnny Golden, who was unbeaten (3-0-0) through the first two Ryder Cups, was born in Austria-Hungary.

On June 16,1964, a number of American tour professionals presented Barnes with an illuminated address, honoring him "for elevating the standards of golf as Open Champion of the United States and Great Britain and as the First American Professional Champion."

It was signed by then USGA President Clarence W. Benedict and 31 tour professionals that included Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, and Julius Boros. This address is now on display at the West Cornwall Golf Club.

Barnes had what many of today’s PGA instructors deem "a modern-era golf swing." He was known as a long hitter with a strong but compact swing. His size, lanky frame, and length earned him his nicknames of Long Jim and Big Jim.

In his 1919 book, Picture Analysis of Golf Strokes: A Complete Book of Instruction, Barnes listed his set makeup (he carried 10 clubs) at that time:

  • Driver: 42.75 inches in length, 13 ounces in weight
  • Brassie: 42.5 inches, 13 ounces
  • Spoon: 41.5 inches, 13.5 ounces
  • Cleek: 39.5 inches, 14.5 ounces
  • Mid-iron: 38 inches, 14.75 ounces
  • Mashie iron: 38.5 inches, 15.25 ounces
  • Mashie: 37.5 inches, 14.25 ounces
  • Pitching mashie: 37.5 inches, 15 ounces
  • Mashie niblick: 36.75 inches, 15.5 ounces
  • Putter: 34 inches, 14.5 ounces

That book's use of photos is considered a watershed moment for golf instructional writing, pairing Barnes' clear descriptions with lots of large photos picturing his swing in various positions with various clubs.

Barnes also wrote the 1925 instructional, A Good Guide to Golf.

Jim Barnes died of a heart attack at age 80 on May 24, 1966, in East Orange, New Jersey. One of the headlines of his obituary: "Barnes Was Giant in His Day."

JAMES MARTIN "JIM" BARNES Birth Date: April 8, 1886 Birthplace: Lelant, Cornwall, England Nickname: Long Jim or Big Jim Barnes 22 official PGA Tour victories:

  • 1914 Western Open
  • 1916 North and South Open
  • 1916 Connecticut Open
  • 1916 PGA Championship
  • 1917 Western Open
  • 1917 Philadelphia Open Championship
  • 1919 North and South Open
  • 1919 Shawnee Open
  • 1919 Western Open
  • 1919 PGA Championship
  • 1919 Southern Open
  • 1920 Shawnee Open
  • 1921 Deland Open
  • 1921 Florida Open
  • 1921 U.S. Open
  • 1921 Main Line Open
  • 1922 California Open Championship
  • 1923 Corpus Christi Open
  • 1925 Open Championship
  • 1926 Mid-Winter Tournament
  • 1930 Cape Cod Open
  • 1937 Long Island Open

Further Contributions

Barnes immigrated to America in November 1906 and boarded the railroad to Oakland, San Francisco. In 1910 he moved north to Washington State and signed with Tacoma Country and Golf Club.

During the American tour of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913 five matches were played in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle duel against Jim Barnes and Bob Johnstone was a tight game with Vardon beating Johnstone at the 35th hole and Ray holding Barnes to a half on the 36th.

- contributed by David Saraceno