The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 13, 2014

Tournament allows brothers to spend rare time together

Barberos have been a fixture at BNI since 2002

BECKLEY — When Register-Herald photographer Rick Barbero called his brother, David, in 2002 and invited him to drive the 526 miles from Rochester, N.Y., to Beckley to participate in a golf tournament, David, 55, must have thought his younger sibling was losing his mind.

But for some reason, David accepted the invitation and took part in the BNI Memorial Tournament.

Thirteen years later, David and Rick, 54, finished off their opening round in the 34th BNI Memorial Tournament, sponsored by First Community Bank, Saturday at Grandview Country Club, continuing what has become an annual tradition and one of their favorite weeks of the year.

“When I first asked him, I expected it to be a one-time thing,” said Rick. “But it just grew into an annual event.”

“We just figure out how much trouble we can get into,” said David with a hearty laugh. “When I get here, they want to throw me out.”

While golf has always created a bond in the Barbero family — David and Rick used to caddie for their parents at a young age and they judged the overall health of their uncles and grandparents by how well they swung the club — the sport is a secondary focus during BNI week. Whether it’s setting off stink bombs at local restaurants, dining on the nearly 10 pounds of meatballs and sausage Rick cooks up every year using his grandmother’s recipe or a simple trip to Wal-Mart, the brothers just enjoy spending rare time together.

“It’s nothing but laughs,” said David, who explained that the brothers usually only see each other twice a year. “The sad part is when you go home. I miss my brother. It’s been a lot of years without him home.”

“It’s a good thing that we can do together as brothers,” agreed Rick, who has been with the Register-Herald for 34 years after accepting a job out of college that he expected to keep for one or two years. “We’re so far away. We pick and cut up the whole time.”

The golf? It’s not bad, either.

David, who plays in four or five tournaments every summer in New York, said there’s something special about the BNI setup, which allows golfers to play three courses over three days.

“There’s not one tournament I’ve been in that plays three different courses,” he said. “I like it like that. It makes it fair.

“I feel like I’m playing on the professional tour. That’s as close as I get. You’ve got three different rounds of golf, three different courses and flights. I enjoy it.”

David’s score isn’t always where he’d like it to be — an 83 is his best round during his BNI career and he said the course at Glade Springs hates him.

“Playing down here is a lot different than playing back home,” he explained. “Back home, I play very well. I come here and my game is 10 or 15 strokes higher, because of the way the courses are. It’s a lot harder. I have to use a different club to shorten my game up and allow the ball to roll. Back home, we could stick the greens with no problem. It’s tough to stick the greens here.”

That’s not a negative for David, who works for Time Warner Cable in New York. He said the number of times he swings the club during the three rounds has little impact on his enjoyment.

“I don’t come here to win,” he said. “I’m an OK golfer, but there are a lot of great golfers here. I come here just for the thrill of being with my brother and friends and playing. I don’t care if I shoot 200 or 60.”

“You’re out there competing,” added Rick, who played in a group with David, Wayne Legursky and Rich Young Saturday. “You want to shoot good. But if you don’t, we still walk off the course laughing.”

That’s why David said he hopes he’ll play in the tournament 13 more years, if not longer.

“I’ll keep going until my body says no more,” he said. “I can’t believe how long it’s been. It has gone so quick.”

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Family is unquestionably the biggest draw for David — who gets to spend time not only with his brother but also with Rick’s children and grandchildren when he visits — but he said he also enjoys getting together with other friends, many of whom he has never even met.

“The folks here are very friendly,” he said. “I’ve got people talking to me that I don’t even know. There are people that remember me that I don’t remember. That’s great. I just love the area, and West Virginia is so beautiful anyway.”

David remembered one BNI trip where he headed back home at the end of the week, with his mother in the car, and had a radiator hose blow while crossing the New River Gorge Bridge.

A passerby quickly stopped and spent the next two hours with the Barbero family, making sure they made their way safely to a garage for repairs. Once at the garage, the issue was fixed, at very little expense, and David was back on the road.

“You don’t get that back home,” he said. “When you’re out there in trouble, you’re going to be in trouble for a long time. People just don’t stop.

“I love the people here.”

The Barberos — along with Legursky and Young, will hit the tee at The Brier Patch Golf Links today at 7:50 a.m. for the tournament’s second round. All competitors will play the final round on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs Monday.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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