Links to life
Howard makes Hot Springs Country Club golf destination
I n golf, though one may play the same course over and over, every round is different. Barry Howard translates that philosophy to his life.
Howard, longtime affiliated with Hot Springs Country Club — his current titles are general manager and director of golf — wakes up every day embracing whatever challenges await him at one of Garland County’s many golf destinations. Though he’s been at the same place for an extended period of time, life at the country club never gets old.
“Someone said a long time ago that if you love what you do, it’s not work,” Howard said. “I really don’t look at it as work. I put in a lot of hours, but I love Hot Springs Country Club and I just love what I do.”
Since becoming general manager in 2002, Howard has been kept off the course more than he’d like because of his duties. But he still remembers the game of kings is what got him to his lofty positions.
“It will always be my No. 1 love because it has gotten me to where I’m at,” he said. “I’m very fortunate because golf has taken me
to where I’m at today.”
And, in recent years, his love for golf has brought some statewide recognition. In 2011, Howard was named golf professional of the year by the Arkansas chapter of the Professional Golfers’ Association.
“It’s always very rewarding when it’s something that comes from your peers,” he said. “It makes it very special that your peers think enough of you to bestow such an award upon you. I’m very honored.”
Last year, the Arkansas PGA gave Howard the Bill Strausbaugh Award. According to the national chapter’s media guide, the Strausbaugh Award “is presented to a PGA professional who by their day-to-day efforts have distinguished themselves by mentoring their fellow PGA professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community.”
“The Strausbaugh Award has a lot to do with other golf pros,” Howard said. “I get a lot of phone calls from other golf pros to try to help them with the decisions that they make and what would you do in this situation. I guess that’s where that comes from.
“I’ve gotten older. I used to be the young guy, and now I’m one of the older guys. Some of the younger guys call me now to see
what’s going on. I used to call some other golf pros, and now they’re calling me. I’ve just gotten older.”
One such pro is right under his wing. Philip Holley began working at HSCC in 2005, and Howard groomed him to where he became head golf professional one and a half years ago.
“I like working for Barry,” Holley said. “Barry’s a good guy, and this is a busy place. But there are just so many nice people.”
Howard, Holley and the rest of the golf staff are charged with running multiple 18-hole courses — the more open Park and the trickier Arlington — a task seldom seen in this state. Howard credits superintendent Trey Rutledge for getting both ready on a daily basis.
“I travel a lot and I play golf at a lot of places when I’m on vacation. It’s very rare when I play a course that is in better condition,” Howard said. “Our courses are in as good of condition as any that I have played around the country.”
And both courses need to be in “tournament-ready shape” for the many events Howard brings to the Spa City every year. Arkansas State Golf Association already makes HSCC its annual home for the ASGA Men’s Four-Ball Championship and the Randy Beaver Cup, and HSCC will host the Monk Wade Father-Son Championship June 10-11 and the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the second consecutive year July 16-18.
He also has the U.S. Golf Association holding events at his club this year. HSCC just recently held a U.S. Open qualifying tournament on the Arlington Course, and the Park Course will hold a boys U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier June 25.
Howard said he schedules top-flight tournaments to let locals see some of the best players in the region, thus boosting the level of play. Nine of the 73 in the U.S. Open qualifying field had ties to HSCC.
“Someone said a long time ago that if you love what you do, it’s not work. I really don’t look at it as work. I put in a lot of hours, but I love Hot Springs Country Club and I just love what I do.”
Barry Howard, general manager and director of golf for Hot Springs Country Club
But Howard’s biggest contribution is at the game’s roots. For the past 20 years, he has been the Southwest Region director of the Arkansas PGA Junior Tour, giving youth golfers a chance to play six courses for the nominal fee of $85 while competing for a state championship berth.
“You’re just trying to get a golf club into a kid’s hands,” he said. “I know the First Tee is over in Little Rock, but the First Tee doesn’t help kids in Hot Springs. Our First Tee is this PGA Junior Tour, to get kids started in golf. That’s the main reason why I do it.”
Regardless of age, Howard’s influence can be felt in Garland County golf.