It was only fitting that at the Wyndham Championship last August—which marked his 300th PGA Tour/Champions Tour pro-am—Barry Hyde’s team won. His first pro-am was with another colorful character, Ken Green, and along the way he’s won with the likes of Vijay Singh, Gene Littler, and, the latest, Hudson Swafford.
Hyde, 53, is known for sartorial flare and an ever-present cigar on the course. But he likes to keep a low profile about his pro-am exploits. “I take a fair amount of ribbing,” he says.
Justin Leonard, the reigning British Open champion at the time, did the math and calculated that as of May 1998, Hyde had played in more tour events that season than he had. “And I’m a PGA Tour player,” Leonard exclaimed.
It’s all in a day’s work for Hyde, executive vice president of brands and properties at sports marketing agency Wasserman, and living proof that golf is the official sport of business.
After graduating from Occidental College in 1988, Hyde tried a few jobs, including as an overpaid babysitter to actor Bill Murray’s two boys. He saved his money, packed his VW Rabbit, and in December 1989 drove to Florida with a dream of working in golf. When the car conked out in Jacksonville, he called an acquaintance at the PGA Tour from a gas station, walked in, applied for a job at TPC Sawgrass, and left with a uniform.
“In those days, you didn’t even start in the bag room,” Hyde says. “I picked the range, separating the balatas from the stripers.”
From there, he worked his way inside Tour headquarters, where he helped bring MasterCard on as a sponsor. A year later, the credit-card giant hired him to run its golf-sponsorship program, dubbing him “Chief Golf Officer.” Former MasterCard CEO Alan Heuer used to stop him in the halls and ask to see the top of his hands—the right one tanned to a fine bronze, the left one, his glove hand, a whiter shade of pale.
Of all his pro-am experiences, the MasterCard Senior British Open at Royal County Down in 2001 takes the cake. Hyde’s foursome was scheduled to play with veteran pro Howard Twitty, who proved to be a late scratch. His sub? Jack Nicklaus.
Hyde is also the namesake of the Manatee Club, a golf club without real estate that’s 70 members strong with thousands on the waiting list. It began at a New York dinner party when one of the wives posed a delicious question: If your husband were an animal, what would he be? Hyde’s wife, Katie declared her husband would be a manatee because he’s big, lovable, and lies around the house a lot.
Former PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua, one of the Manatee Club’s founding members, calls Hyde a modern-day Zelig. “There’s a certain magic to the guy,” he says. “Barry just connects all these people.”
Take Malcolm Turner, his former intern at the Tour, who wooed Hyde away from the USGA, where he was the association’s first chief marketing officer, to Wasserman. Among those who’ve hired him for representation are David Fay, his USGA boss, and Tom Watson, his former pitchman at MasterCard.
“Barry doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the most creative minds in the business,” says Jeff Price, the PGA’s chief commercial officer, who worked with Hyde at MasterCard.
Case in point: Arnold Palmer was seeking sponsorship for his Bay Hill tournament and tapped Hyde to lure MasterCard away from The Colonial. Hyde arranged for Palmer to play with Heuer in a pro-am. “He can say no to me,” Hyde told Palmer, “but he’ll never say no to you.”
As MasterCard would say, that was priceless, as is playing 300-plus pro-ams—on the job.