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George Bayer passes away
He 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 Washington.

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 1997.

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.

References:

[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.

 

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