PGA Tour pro explains how he got invite to Jay-Z’s exclusive party

Ricky Barnes, Jay-Z and LeBron James at the launch of Jay-Z's 40/40 club in New York City on June 18, 2003.

Ricky Barnes, Jay-Z and LeBron James at the launch of Jay-Z's 40/40 club in New York City on June 18, 2003.


Ricky Barnes was a decorated amateur and in line to be the next big thing on Tour when he turned pro in 2003.

In the early 2000s, he was making quite the name for himself. At Arizona he was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year (2000), Co-Player of the Year (2001) and a First-Team All-American (2003), but his biggest accomplishment was when he won the 2002 U.S. Amateur. That got him a spot into the 2003 Masters and a tee time next to defending champ Tiger Woods. Barnes then beat Woods by seven shots in the opening round at Augusta National and went on to finish 21st.

Barnes was even featured in ESPN’s “Next” issue alongside LeBron James and others. So, yes, Barnes was a big deal. And it’s not surprising he had brands chasing him like one. One potential suitor even had a relationship with Jay-Z, which helped Barnes earn the invite of a lifetime to hang out with A-list celebs and athletes.

Barnes told the story on this week’s Subpar Podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. It all started when he got a phone call when he was in Chicago for the 2003 U.S. Open (he tied for 59th). His phone rang, and he was told there was someone who wanted to talk to him. It was Jay-Z.

“I opened up the 40/40 club; do you wanna come?” Barnes recalled him saying. “I’m like, yeah. ‘You’re in.'”

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Barnes said he spent another day or two in the Chicago area and then flew to New York City, got put up in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan and then went to the launch of Jay-Z’s 40/40 Sports Bar. The rest, well, was pretty good too. He hung out with NBA stars — LeBron, Tracy McGrady and more — and musicians like Lil’ Kim. Barnes said Jay-Z’s “Black Album” dropped that night, and they played it twice through before he left.

Barnes said he thought the dream was too good to be true when he had to step out and go to the bathroom, only to return and have two security guards not let him back into the VIP area. Then Jay-Z saw him trying to talk his way back in and came to the rescue.

“He goes, ‘This guy, tonight, he can go anywhere,'” Barnes said.

You can listen to Barnes’ complete Subpar interview below.

Josh Berhow Editor

As’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at