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Tiger trio - Barber, Johnson and Gilchrest - ready to tee off at Barbasol Championship
July 12, 2016

<em> Blayne Barber, Michael Johnson and Matt Gilchrest will represent Auburn in the PGA Barbasol Championship.</em>
Blayne Barber, Michael Johnson and Matt Gilchrest will represent Auburn in the PGA Barbasol Championship.

By Jeff Shearer
AuburnTigers.com

OPELIKA, Ala - The Barbarsol Championship is Blayne Barber's 22nd PGA Tour event this season, but it's the first one in which he won't be living out of a suitcase.

"It's always nice to sleep in your own bed and play a tournament," said Barber Tuesday at Grand National. "It's just a normal week. I'm going to finish practice and go mow my grass this afternoon. It's a more relaxed feel. Obviously, when you're comfortable, normally you play well. It's a good opportunity to go out there and pick up some FedExCup points."

Barber, a 2012 Auburn graduate, ranks 126th in the FedExCup standings. He finished tied for 3rd in February's Honda Classic, earning more than a half-million dollars so far in his second season on the PGA Tour.

Barber, who lives in Auburn, was a fan favorite at last year's Barbasol Championship, finishing tied for 10th.

"I don't feel any added pressure from it," Barber said. "It almost just makes it more enjoyable having people there supporting you and rooting you on and clapping for good shots. I think it's more fun to play when you have people out there who can cheer for you."

<em> Blayne Barber signs an autograph at the 2015 PGA Barbasol Championship.</em>
Blayne Barber signs an autograph at the 2015 PGA Barbasol Championship.

Barber serves as a mentor to two fellow Auburn golfers in the field, 2016 teammates Michael Johnson and Matt Gilchrest.

"I see Blayne a lot down in Auburn and I'm always asking him questions and he's great with that, he knows what he's doing," said Johnson, who is turning professional this week after winning a school-record three tournaments this season while setting the Auburn record for scoring average (70.37).

Johnson joined three other former SEC golfers, Georgia's Lee McCoy, Texas A&M's Martin Piller, and Alabama's Bobby Wyatt, to conduct a First Tee Junior Clinic for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County.

"I went to a clinic when I was little at the Bruno's Classic at Greystone that Chi Chi Rodriguez was doing and I had a blast, he was a great entertainer," Johnson said. "So I knew that it was important for me to be out here. They were having a blast. Just to see their faces, it's completely worth it."

<em> Former Auburn golfer Michael Johnson drives a golf ball through shaving cream during Tuesday's Junior Clinic.</em>
Former Auburn golfer Michael Johnson drives a golf ball through shaving cream during Tuesday's Junior Clinic.

Matt Gilchrest, making his PGA Tour debut this week as an amateur, hopes the experience he gains will benefit him in his senior season at Auburn.

"Obviously, this will be a better field than anything we're going to see next year," Gilchrest said. "I think that's really helpful. When you play with good people, you really improve. That should really carry over to next year."

Like Barber, Gilchrest will have a very short commute.

"It's just down the road from my apartment," said Gilchrest, who finished 3rd in this spring's SEC Championship. "I've got a lot of family from Dallas and it'll be a really special week."

After finishing his Auburn career in 2017, Gilchrest hopes to join Johnson and Barber on the professional circuit, adding to the list of touring Tigers that includes Jason Dufner, Patton Kizzire and Dominic Bozzelli.

"We've got five or six big names out there kind of blazing the trail for the rest of us," Gilchrest said. "All of our goals are to do exactly that.

"It's not just that we can watch them, because there are a lot of guys you can watch, but we can talk to them, bounce ideas off of them. They're really eager to help us, and genuinely nice guys and that's why it makes a difference."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:


 

 

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