Links to life

Howard makes Hot Springs Coun­try Club golf des­ti­na­tion

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Spotlighton -

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.

Story by Sean Saun­ders Pho­tog­ra­phy by Richard Ras­mussen

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