George Bayer passes away
once hit a drive 436 yards
By: Malamute, 22 March 2003
George Bayer, former Washington Husky football player who played on the PGA tour, died Sunday from an aneurism at his home in
Palm Desert, California. He was 77.
Bayer, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, played right tackle under
Coaches Pest Welsh and Howard Odell (1946-1949) at Washington. He was born
in Bremerton, Washington on September 15, 1925.
Although the Husky teams that Bayer played on had a
combined 13-24 record, he played in the 1949 East West Shrine game and was
drafted in the twentieth round by the Washington Redskins. In 1949, Bayer, as a senior, opened holes for Husky legend Hugh McElhenny, who played
in 8 games and averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his inaugural season at
In a span of three years, Arnie Weinmeister, Hugh
McElhenny, George Bayer, Don Heinrich, Roland Kirkby and Don Coryell were
enrolled at Washington. Considering their prominence on the national scene
and the narrow span of enrollment, there has never been a student/athlete
sextet like them in Husky history. (*)
Bayer played in just 6 games for the Redskins because
of a disagreement with its owner.
"'He would come out of the stands
and make substitutions,' Bayer told The Sun of Bremerton in an interview in
2000. 'I thought the coach or someone sitting on the bench was supposed to
do that.'" [AP].
Bayer began playing professional golf when he was 29 years old. He was
known for his booming drives that traveled over 300 yards, this back in an
era of low-tech golf equipment. In that era, heads for woods were either made of
laminated maple or cut from a solid block of persimmon wood. Players used
three-piece wound balls made of balata rubber that were known for their spin
characteristics rather than for their boring tendencies. Although golf clubs
were much less forgiving in his time, Bayer, who was extraordinarily
large for a PGA professional,
won the 1957 Canadian Open, 1958
Mayfair Inn Open and 1960 St. Petersburg Open.
Bayer finished third in the
1963 PGA championship, his best finish in a major championship. He earned $428,862 on
the PGA and Senior PGA tours before retiring from regular competition in
Bayer traveled easily with the late
Julius Buros, sharing his easy-going demeanor.
At one time golf discriminated
against tall golfers. In Bayer’s era on the tour,
very few golfers were over 5-foot-10 inches in height because a tall golfer has more of a tendency to either slice or hook the ball. A long swing
arc, with a small margin for error, can translate into an errant shot,
especially with low-tech equipment. Also, a tall golfer is more likely to
sway off the ball on his backswing because of a high center of gravity. For his time, Bayer’s achievements are remarkable.
Personal Note: I’m not sure
whether Bayer played on the golf team at Washington. The UW had its own golf
course in 1949, a picturesque 9-hole course that ran parallel to the
Montlake cut. I caddied several times
for Jim Mallory, Husky basketball center (1946-1949), who like Bayer could
hit a drive well over 300 yards. If they had played on the same UW
golf team, it would have to have been the longest hitting team in the NCAA
at that time.
(*) Factoids (Six legends in a span of 3 years):
Don Coryell ('50, '51) is the only coach to win 100 games at the college
and professional levels. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame
and a 2003 nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hugh McElhenny
('49-51) and Arnie Weinmeister ('42, '46, '47) are members of the Pro
Football Hall of Fame. McElhenny is a member of the College Football Hall of
Fame. George Bayer was enrolled at Washington from 1946-1949. Don Heinrich
(1949-'52) is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Roland Kirkby
(1948-'50) is one of three Huskies to have had his number retired.
[AP]. AP report, “George Bayer, 77; golfer was known for potent drives,”
Boston Globe, March 20, 2003.
[Stark]. Stark, Chuck, “Bremerton
native Bayer passes away,” The SunLink, 20 March 2003.