Barney Adams never looked particu-
larly comfortable when he attended the
PGA Merchandise Show as chief executive
of Adams Golf. To be sure, he delighted in
catching up with his golf industry friends
as he also touted his latest equipment
But the upstate New Yorker, who found
his way into the game as a teenage cad-
die, seemed somewhat out of place in the
suits he often wore to the Show each day.
And he didn’t like being confined to the
exhibitor’s booth from which he did busi-
ness there. Better to be back fitting clubs
on the practice range, as he did during
his early years in the golf business. Bet-
ter to be in the R&D lab, trying to perfect
another technological tweak.
Not surprisingly, Barney stopped com-
ing to the PGA Show after he stopped run-
ning Adams Golf in 2002. But he is return-
ing this year, only this time as an honoree,
not as an exhibitor. The PGA of America is
presenting him with the Ernie Sabayrac
Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Adams is clearly flattered by the
gesture. But it is doubtful he will be any
more at ease in the suit he will likely wear
to the ceremony. He may even feel more
awkward this time around because “Barn-
yard,” as friends have long called him, is
not a man who relishes the spotlight.
But he certainly merits the attention
he is receiving, for Adams is an important
figure in golf history and one of the great
equipment innovators in the game’s mod-
ern era. Ely Callaway had his Big
Bertha and Karsten Solheim his Eye2s.
Barney Adams “changed how people played
and thought about long second shots.”
For Barney, it was the Tight Lies, a fairway
metal that forever changed the thinking
about long second shots and led to the
expansive use of utility clubs.
Barney is also getting his props from
the PGA because of the person he has
always been. A passionate soul who loves
the sport, Adams relates as easily to the
public links player as the high-end coun-
try clubber. He never got caught up in his
business successes and always exuded an
unbridled a enthusiasm for the game that
extended well beyond the fortunes of his
club company. And for many years, he was
as popular and powerful a presence at the
annual exhibition in Orlando as there had
What all this means, of course, is that
it will be good to see Adams back at the
Show. Now 71, he deserves the award as
much as golf looks forward to the chance
to recognize him.
Born in Syracuse, N. Y., Byron “Bar-
ney” Adams grew up in a family of modest
means 20 miles away in the small town
of Marcellus. When he wasn’t caddying at
Onondaga Country Club, he was spending
the summers of his youth baling hay and
shoveling manure at a local dairy farm.
Shortly after graduating from high
school, he labored for a spell at a black
sand iron foundry in his hometown, a
place so dank and dirty he said it had to
have been designed by Dante. It was an
experience that motivated him to study
hard at Clarkson University in nearby
Potsdam, N. Y., where he earned a B.S. in
business, and to work hard in the busi-
ness world after that. He wanted to make
sure he never ended up in such a wretch-
ed place again.
Adams’s first job after graduating from
college in 1962 was with Corning Glass,
and he later worked for a small manufac-
turing company in the Silicon Valley that
specialized in the semiconductor industry.
He made his way to Abilene, Tex., in 1983
to work for a golf equipment company
headed by short-game guru Dave Pelz.
Barney purchased the assets of that busi-
ness in 1986.
Five years later, he moved operations
to Dallas. He also began working at Hank
ter of gravity as well as a clubhead that
appeared to be upside down.
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