Patrick Barr is a street photographer turned local legend, celebrated for bringing his impromptu street golf sessions to the masses.
There’s nothing quite like summer in New York City.
From the late night activities to the free concert series, the Big Apple is still aces when it comes to providing rare and exclusive experiences to natives, transplants, and tourists alike. For all three archetypes, the road to having a sure-fire exceptional time in the city that never sleeps comes in playing with Tiger Hood.
Instantly recognizable due to his newsboy hats, salt-and-pepper beard, and infectious optimism and smile, Hood, whose real name is Patrick Barr, has been holding impromptu street golf sessions for years before influencers and celebrities called him the true “Mayor of Gotham City." He began his Neighborhood Golf Association in an attempt to pass the time while selling his photographs. But thanks to his efforts (as well as Nicolas Heller's documentary and the director's spotlights on social media as New York Nico), Tiger Hood now spends much of his days and nights hitting empty milk cartons with a golf club. A beautiful Black man with the heart of a wily veteran, the local street golfer has been emblazoned on T-shirts, played with celebrities such as Will Smith and Usher, and found a way to make a rich white person’s game into a must-have, urban experience for casual fans of the sport.
With a growing legion of supporters, the world-renown NYC legend set aside some time to speak with EBONY about the excitement behind his impromptu golf sessions and how his “carton-in-one” can help young kids across the country be at the top of their game.
For those reading this and learning about you for the first time, how would you best describe the difference between yourself, as Patrick Barr, and the Tiger Hood persona you’re known as in and around New York City?
Tiger Hood: It was just a natural fit. “Hood” with “Wood,” you know, it rhymes. I am a street photographer and one day I found a golf club in a garbage can. I started hitting around a tennis ball against this building that was under construction [laughs]. I just gravitated towards it and got into the act of being consistent with it when, especially at the age of 40-plus, you know it is a bit of a challenge [laughs].
That helped with more people recognizing you?
No, no. I was selling my photographs on the sidewalk, so people knew me. [Hitting the golf ball] was just something for me to do to amuse myself while passing the time. I wasn’t there trying to entertain anybody or do anything like that—it was strictly for personal purposes. I’m lucky that more people aren’t calling the cops on me. I’m fortunate that they were amused by it enough not to call the police.
There’s an element of fun that you add that entices those who are not from New York to treat it like an authentic experience. How much fun is it for you and what’s your takeaway when you see people take off their cool and participate in playing with you?
It’s awesome, man! A total stranger could come by who doesn’t play golf at all. It might take a few swings and I’ve had a couple of people—who don’t golf at all—hit it into the box on their first swing. Seeing their reactions is really good for me. It feels like you’re in a stadium or something like that, you know? It [feels] like we’re playing a real sport together.
One of those captivating moments came on the onset of your name ringing bells around New York and the internet. Building with New York Nico grew you into a folklore hero of sorts, and interesting people like Usher and The Lucas Bros. answered your call. For those who challenge you to play, how is that experience when you step up and get busy with the clubs?
That excitement is definitely captivating [laughs]. Playing with me is one of those moments that really get talked about in certain circles. For those who follow the street photography game—or just what goes on in New York on the ground—all types of people know who my name is. And in moments where celebrities are coming from the outside world into mine, it helped to make Tiger Hood into kind of a folklore hero [laughs].
Yes, I played games with Usher and The Lucas Bros., but that aided in making my rep grow to a bigger plateau to where people outside of New York are invested in wanting to play with you and learn more about who you are. For me, at the end of the day, it’s all the same. Usher was playing against a young kid and in that moment—to be honest with you—you could see the kid getting better. He had a better game than Usher that day, so, it is a rewarding experience hands down. The other day, actually, this kid came by and hit a hole-in-one on his first swing. Man, that was better than even Will Smith, because he took three tries to make it in, while this kid dropped by on the humble and made it in one.
Besides the gratification that comes with successfully making your shot or the attention that comes when people are watching you—what feelings are shared between you and your fellow golfer who’s on the par with you?
If I am playing by myself and I can get it in, then I’m always excited [laughs]. I don’t get it in that often and this has been something I’ve been doing for 13 years. Yet every time I get a “hole-in-one,” I am overjoyed. Sometimes, the feeling is more exciting than others. I had hit one the other day and I just gave a random stranger a fist bump in excitement—and that was it [laughs].
It was funny because I wasn’t in front of a large crowd or anything, it was just this one guy watching. I looked at him and gave him a thumbs-up and made this personal connection at that moment. I took the swing and it went in, and we were just happy, y’know [laughs]. It was really cool. Or last week, when a kid got one in on his first shot and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off [laughs].
Just the excitement that I got from watching him get it in was contagious.
How do you know you’ve found a great place to play on now that the city is opening back up?
We had street games all the time like this growing up—whether stickball or handball—it was a fun thing to do as a kid. That’s why I want to bring people to Grandma’s Place up in Harlem because they have everything there for kids to play. It is the perfect petri dish for what I want to do when it comes to getting the young involved with golf. My grandma knows a lot of the community organizations around the neighborhood and deals with everybody.
They can use it for yoga, for rest, and just to have fun to take their minds off of whatever. I’m talking to Nike and Adidas to work out a situation that can enable me to travel to different neighborhoods around the city, around the country, and just spread this Tiger Hood Golfing into different areas for others to enjoy.
So, a neighborhood golf association-type tour is in the works?
I’ve turned down other companies because I can’t just wear the same clothing. It can get boring after a while, you know what I’m saying? But these companies are so enthusiastic about working with me though, I want to connect with them to help spread this thing and help get these schools, community organizations, and young kids sneakers, clothing, and lessons that will encourage them to be enthusiastic about golf and all the things they can learn from it. There are so many different kinds of people that I want to meet and work with, and if I can get a mode of transportation then that would be a wonderful way to grow the sport from my hood to your hood.
Now with summer in full swing and people in New York City out and about, can you share how the highs and lows of the pandemic affected you?
It affected me greatly. I was lucky, too, as I was in Florida with my family, and we were all pretty much trying to stay as safe as possible. In watching TV and seeing how high those numbers got, you really see how fragile life is and how these are people with names and families behind those statistical numbers. I couldn’t imagine, even now, how certain people can be so callous, given what we collectively went through as citizens in this country.
So many people have died. While now it feels like we’re getting through the worst of it, there are people who are still saying they don’t want to get the vaccine and that is crazy. You know how many people have died already? I’m not worried about [the vaccines] side effects because there are so many Black people who are involved in the creation and science with these vaccines that I trust that they’re keeping an eye on things.
I want to be that gateway swing between those in love with the sports and those who want to overcome this pandemic and thrive through play. Eventually, we can get to a state of normalcy where we can go from playing on the streets to the simulators, assisting interested players in fine-tuning their game with professional coaches. God willing, I would love to create a scholarship that would give kids a chance to attend these colleges out of here.
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersection of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.