The Oldest Golfer Ever to Play on the PGA Tour

Jerry Barber at the 1994 Los Angeles Open
Jerry Barber, age 77, playing the PGA Tour's 1994 Los Angeles Open. J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

Once upon a time, senior golfers - those pros over the age of 50 - were common in PGA Tour events. Today, most PGA Tour players head to the senior tour, the Champions Tour, once they turn 50. So seeing a 55-year-old in a PGA Tour tournament isn't common anymore. A 60-year-old? Rare. A 70-year-old? Forget about it.

But it wasn't that long ago that golfers of such age did make appearances not just on the Champions Tour, but on the "regular" PGA Tour.

And a 77-year-old holds the all-time PGA Tour record as the oldest golfer to play in a tour event.

Jerry Barber is the Oldest Golfer to Play on the PGA Tour

Jerry Barber is the oldest to ever compete in a PGA Tour tournament, setting the record when he played the 1994 Buick Invitational at the age of 77 years, 10 months, and nine days.

Barber shot 77 and 71 in his first two rounds of the tournament and his 4-over score resulted in him being cut before the second half of the tournament.

A couple weeks earlier, the same occurred when Barber played in the Nissan Los Angeles Open and shot 76-80. (But at least he matched or bettered his age in three of those four rounds.)

Interestingly, at the time, Barber also held the record as the oldest winner of a PGA Championship for his victory at the major in 1961, when he was 45 years, three months and six days old. (That record was later broken by Julius Boros who was a little over 48 years old when he won the 1968 PGA Championship in San Antonio, Texas at Pecan Valley Golf Club. Boros still holds the PGA Championship record and, in fact, remains the oldest male golfer to win a major championship.)

Why Was Barber Still Playing on the PGA Tour at Age 77?

How is it that a 77-year-old golfer - even a major championship winner - was still playing regular PGA Tour stops?

At the time that Barber won the 1961 PGA Championship, the PGA Tour was a division of the PGA of America. And all PGA Championship winners were given lifetime exemptions to play in any PGA Tour tournament they wished to enter.

So: Barber played those tournaments in 1994, at age 77, because of a) he could, according to the rules at the time; and b) he wanted to. That lifetime exemption for PGA Championship winners was ended after 1970 when the PGA Tour split off from the PGA of America and became a separate entity.

Barber was likely the last PGA champion to use the exemption. And although his scores in his two 1994 PGA Tour appearances were pretty good for his age, he died only seven months after playing that Buick Invitational.