Celebrity golf: Always connected, Barber twins split duties at ACC
By Jeremy Evans
Tribune staff writer
STATELINE – On April 7, 1975, Geraldine and James Barber celebrated the birth of twin boys. They named one Ronde and the other Attiim Kiambu, or “Fiery-Tempered King.” Kiambu, who screamed incessantly after being born, was eventually renamed “Tiki.”
Maybe all the fussing at birth was because Tiki was no longer in such close proximity to his brother. Ever since then, the Barber twins have tried to stay connected – even when they visit Lake Tahoe. (They even wrote a book together in 2004 titled “By My Brother’s Side.”)
Ronde Barber is making his first American Century Championship appearance, but Tiki won’t be far away. He will caddy for his brother this weekend. Their synergy will likely be on display after they begin first-round play this morning at 9:55 from the tenth tee.
“I know what it’s like, I know what he’s going through,” said Ronde, who’s caddied for a friend in Tampa Bay the past seven years. “The bag gets heavy about 13, 14 holes. He was gracious enough, or I suckered him I guess, to come out here and do this for me.”
For the first time in a decade, the Barbers are together again with nobody else around. However, until the 1997 NFL draft, they were never far apart.
They both had stellar prep football careers at Cave Spring High in Roanoke, Va. After high school, they played together at the University of Virginia – Ronde was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference cornerback, Tiki an All-ACC running back.
But after being drafted by two different NFL teams, the Barbers split up for the first time. Ronde has since won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and turned into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Tiki, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the league’s most versatile running backs with the New York Giants.
They are both married and have successfully carved out lives for themselves in different zip codes. But this week in Tahoe, there are no spouses, no kids and no parents. Their families stayed on the East Coast.
“Even though I’m not playing, this is a chance for us to get away for ourselves and enjoy beautiful scenery out here and play some golf,” Tiki Barber said. “We were close then (as kids) and we still are. It’s been a blessing the last 30 years.”
Playing football together has kept them close, but this week golf has kept them close in a different way.
Both brothers know their roles when it comes to the white ball. Even though they started playing golf as seniors in college, Ronde joined a country club five years ago. Tiki made no such investment.
“I play a bunch, but I don’t know if I have a chance to win,” said Ronde, who is about a 7 or 8 handicap. “Just looking at Al Del Greco’s swing, I was like ‘Did this guy ever play football, what, has he played golf his whole life?’ I watch this tournament every year on TV. The way Rick Rhoden and Dan Quinn and these ex-quarterbacks get around this course, it’s going to be tough to win.”
If things go bad, that’s when Ronde said he’ll have to rely on Tiki, who said his golf game is comparable to Chris Webber or Charles Barkley’s. After all, that’s what brothers do. But since his golf game is weak, Tiki said there’ s no chance of the identical twins playing a trick on the ground and switching roles.
“Ronde wants to try and attempt to win, so he knows better than do that,” Tiki said. “If I played, he really wouldn’t have a chance. I’m a better caddy than a golfer. I don’t want to embarrass myself.
“If Ronde gets mad, that’s what I’ll be good at. I’ll keep his temperament under control. I’ll give him some pointers every now and then, when he starts bringing his elbow in too tight.”
Regardless of how Ronde shoots, he feels his time in Tahoe will be well spent.
After this weekend, the Barbers will fly to their respective homes and prepare for training camp, which begins later this month. Ronde has a chance this season to become the first defensive back in league history to have 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career.
“We’ve been working toward it. We haven’t blitzed as much as we have in the past, but I think we’re going to work toward getting me that record this year,” said Ronde, who has 18 sacks and 23 interceptions in his eight NFL seasons. “But this is just a good opportunity to spend some time together. His offseason is busy with things he does off the field. He never finds the time to get down to Tampa. I don’t really have that many opportunities to get up to New York.
“So this is a good time opportunity to leave everybody else behind and enjoy each other’s company again. It seems like it’s been about 10 years since we’ve done it.”
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