Barbara Burton honored with Updegraff Award

By Bill Huffman In all of her travels throughout the world of golf, Barbara Burton has relied on a mantra that serves her well to this day: “You just never meet a golfer that you don’t like.” That positive outlook and winning attitude has accompanied the easygoing Burton throughout her career as a championship player and nonstop volunteer. And her friendly nature that reaches out to virtually everyone she meets also is one of the main reasons why Burton was selected as the Updegraff Award winner for 2010. Established in 1990, the Updegraff Award is the AGA’s highest honor given in recognition of those who, by their actions, exemplify the spirit of the game. Few have done more along those lines than Burton, a tough competitor and a tireless volunteer for golf at the local (JGAA), state (AWGA) and national (USGA) levels. As friends and colleagues will tell you, she is an all-around great person. “I was totally surprised to get such an honor, because I know who Ed Updegraff is and all of the things he’s done in golf and for golf, so I am deeply honored,” said Burton, a Minnesota native who moved to Arizona in 1979 and shortly thereafter became a member at Pinnacle Peak Country Club, where she has been crowned club champ eight times. “I love to play the game, and I love doing (volunteer work) for the USGA and the JGAA, which remain an important part of my life. It’s slowing down a little, but I’ve always liked staying busy.” Under the guidance of her father, Burton grew up playing golf at Worthington Country Club, a little nine-hole course in the southwest corner of Minnesota that served its small community well. Without a high school team to showcase her skills, Burton won the club championship four times, her first in 1966. From there, she moved to Tempe and attended Arizona State and after graduation moved to Nebraska, where Burton added three club championships to her resume at Omaha Country Club. A few years later, she moved to Arizona and joined Pinnacle Peak Country Club, where she captured her last club championship in 1992. “I probably could have won a few more tournaments throughout my career if it hadn’t been for Betsy Bro,” Burton said with a laugh, a reference to her good friend and fellow club member, as well as long-time rival. “Betsy and I grew up playing against each other – she was from Minneapolis — and then we both ended up at Pinnacle Peak, where we continued the friendship and rivalry. I think we’ve both won about the same number of club championships (at Pinnacle Peak), but I would have won a lot more if she hadn’t made me a runner-up quite so often.” According to Bro, the feeling is mutual. “Barbara and I met when we played against each other as teenagers, and our lives have just been intertwined,” Bro recalled. “In fact, I was there when Barbara first met her husband, and I’ve come to know her entire family quite well. “She’s just a great gal, a great competitor, and she’s done so much for the game over the years because she loves it.” As was her trademark, Burton approached her career as a volunteer with the same gusto as she competed. It all began when she answered a bulletin-board ad for the AWGA, which eventually led to work with the USGA on its Junior Girls Committee and then onward to the JGAA. She still serves on those USGA and JGAA boards. An accomplished rules official who has served at every level, Burton began organizing USGA qualifiers for the Women’s Mid-Amateur and Amateur beginning in 1989. She also helped organize and run the Girls State High School Championships in Arizona and has been involved in the Junior America’s Cup, serving as captain nine times. “Being involved has given me the opportunity to make friends with so many families all over the country,” she said of her legacy. Golf also is how Burton met her husband, Gary, who is a former club champion at Pinnacle Peak, too. They have been married for 40 years and have two children. “I love playing the game with my family and friends, and I also enjoy meeting other people on the golf course, which has been life,” said Burton, a career single-digit handicap who has two holes-in-one to her credit. “I really enjoy the competition, a few side bets, and just the game in general. It’s been good to me.” So what areas of the game are left to conquer for a woman who has seemingly done just about everything? “At this stage, I’m not a workaholic with my game, and I’m not exactly sure what else I can do at my age to get better,” Burton said with a sigh. “I still enjoy being a volunteer with junior golf and girls golf. “So I guess I’ll just continue to do what I can until I can’t do it anymore.” Most would say Barbara Burton has done more than her fair share. But then again, she still has people to meet and friendships to form.