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Former U.S. Open Runner-up Barr Enjoying The Good Life

While the U.S. Open was being played near Washington D.C., the Canadian who has come nearest to winning its southern neighbor’s national championship was enjoying “life in the knife.” Dave Barr, who tied for second in the 1985 U.S. Open that Andy North won at Oakland Hills in Birmingham, Mich., was fishing and golfing in Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Barr was at the Yellowknife Golf Club, along with fellow Canadian professional Bob Panasik, to play the annual Canadian North Midnight Classic. Panasik himself has quite a history in the U.S. Open, having qualified for 10 championships. As the U.S. Open proceeded at Congressional Country Club’s Blue course, Barr and Panasik were teeing it up in the land of the midnight sun.
The Midnight Classic is an annual tournament held at Yellowknife, which opened in June 1948. The course is rock and sand, with artificial greens. Golfers carry a six-by-12 mat of artificial turf from where they play their “fairway” shots. The tournament used to be called the Midnight Marathon, when some golfers would play all night – in daylight, to be sure, because the event is held as close as possible to the summer solstice and its longest day of the year.
The club didn’t have a clubhouse when it opened, not the usual sort of clubhouse, anyway. A crew dragged the fuselage of a Royal Air Force DC3 plane that had crashed. That was Yellowknife Golf Club’s first clubhouse. Fifty-six-years later, in June 2004, an unarmed missile fell from a Canadian Forces CF-18 jet and on to the driving range. The course was, understandably, shut down.
But it’s not shut down at night during this time of the year, that’s for sure. Golfers tee off at 11:59 Friday night and play a nine-hole tournament. They play through 90 minutes of twilight, after which the sun rises about two in the morning. Play moves along slowly, but enjoyably. Golf in the land of the midnight sun is about a good time.
That’s why five members of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame played the tournament two years ago. The group included the 1961 Canadian Amateur champion and two-time U.S. Amateur winner Gary Cowan, from Kitchener, Ont. Panasik was also in the group. He had an enjoyable enough time to return this year, with fellow Hall of Famer Barr. Barr did some clinics and hit a ceremonial tee shot at midnight – a good old time for the Hall of Famer.
It was in 2000 that Barr was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. He had tied for second in that 1985 U.S. Open. Before that, the British Columbian won the 1981 Quad Cities Classic. Two years after the U.S. Open, he won the 1987 Georgia-Pacific Atlanta Golf Classic. He won the Champions Tour’s 2003 Royal Caribbean Golf Classic when he birdied the last four holes. Barr also won 12 Canadian Tour events.
As for the U.S. Open in which he came so close, Barr had a one-shot lead with two holes to play. He wasn’t aware of his position, although he knew, heading to the par-3 17th hole, that he was right there. Barr had just hit his tee shot to the 17, where he missed the green just left, when he saw North walking on to the 16th green. They exchanged smiles.
“It was the battle of being deadlocked,” Barr has said. “I’d gone to a pro-am in Boston with Andy right after the Memorial (in Dublin, Ohio), one that he was running, and now it was like, ‘Hey, here’s you and me again. Can you believe it’s me and you playing for the U.S. Open?’ ”
Barr said he and North were two players others probably wouldn’t have been expected to be in a run for the U.S. Open as it neared its conclusion. “It was kind of a unique moment,” he remembered. “We were both happy for each other. He was playing good and I was playing good. It was a friendly gesture.”
Barr had a difficult shot from left of and through the 17th green. He had a big hump between his ball and the hole, and hit a flop shot that left him with a difficult par putt. He bogeyed the hole and then, trying to hug the left bunker on the long, par-4 final hole, saw his ball go in. He couldn’t reach the green and bogeyed the last hole, as well. Many observers felt he choked, but Barr has never felt that way. He said he felt in control.
“I wasn’t hitting duck hooks, or duck slices,” he said with characteristic candor.
That U.S. Open was a long time ago. Barr is 59 now, and has no status on the Champions Tour. He shot 59 last March on a 5,600-yard course in Palm Desert, Calif., while playing with his wife, Lu Ann. Barr lives near Kelowna, B.C. He’s enjoying life, wherever it takes him – including the land of the midnight sun on the weekend of the U.S. Open.


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