Golf writer Taylor was ace of man on course of life

April 20, 1994|By John Steadman

Everything about George Taylor, who covered golf in the Middle Atlantic area for more than 50 years, personified the gentlemanly qualities of a game he wrote about with such profound understanding and a direct, easy-to-read style. Golf and Taylor became synonymous on the fairways of country clubs and public courses as he reported on events ranging from major stops on the PGA Tour to nine-hole tournaments for those with elevated handicaps.

He came by his vast knowledge of the sport quite naturally. His late father, Alec, migrated to America from Scotland, where he had been a professional at the shrine of golf, St. Andrew's, and where some of his trophies are still on display.

George became an outstanding amateur player while attending Catonsville High School and later a participant in state and sectional competition, often eliminating top-rated rivals and working his way through the large field of challengers until the quarter and semifinal rounds.

Golf was a subject he understood with the comprehension of a professional and played at a high level of competency. But, suddenly, while in his early 30s, arthritis curtailed his ability to swing a club and continuing complications from the disease led to his death yesterday at age 71.

Beginning in 1942 and for 37 years he wrote a daily, nine-months of-the-year column, "On The Links," for the Baltimore News-Post and Sunday American. When a change in management occurred at the newspaper and golf was virtually ignored, he was invited to join the staff of The Evening Sun, where he remained until his retirement in 1989.

George gained entree to the newspaper business when he caddied for the prominent sports editor, Rodger H. Pippen, who was a member of the Rolling Road Golf Club, where Alec Taylor was the head professional. There were numerous opportunities for him to become a teaching professional but he said, "I like writing about it more than playing."

However, he coached golf at St. Timothy's School, not far from where he lived in Glyndon, and took pride in the association. As a member of two newspaper sports staffs, he was, at all times, considered a "team player" by colleagues.

Another reporter, with a serious drinking problem, was once in danger of losing his job for habitual absence. Taylor, understanding the situation, went to the sports editor and said, "If it means I have to do his work to save him from being fired then I don't mind doing it."

The arthritis meant ongoing difficulty. There were occasions when it may have taken him five minutes to remove his coat upon reaching the office but he never complained or asked for help. The only time he was heard lamenting his condition was a spring afternoon when he entered the sports department and said, "I took my little girl, Martie B., out to play golf this morning and I could barely hit the ball six feet."

Even though he wasn't able to execute shots, it didn't mean he lost interest in the game. He continued as a secretary and scoreboard official for the Middle Atlantic Golf Association, in addition to his reporting duties. He had deep respect for amateur golf and, on the professional level, the international aspects particularly interested him, expressing delight when Bobby Locke and Gary Player made their American debuts and he interviewed them.

George enjoyed relating how his father was hired by Suburban Club in the 1920s. "Dad called from New York to apply," he recalled. "The chairman of the selection committee said, 'How will we know you, Mr. Taylor, when we meet the train at the station?' Dad told them, 'I won't be hard to locate. I'll be the man carrying a golf bag on his shoulder.' "

Alec Taylor got the job. The applicant he beat out for the Suburban vacancy was a man who was on his way to becoming a golfing legend, Gene Sarazen.

Last winter, George, through his wife, Eleanor, said he wanted to see a friend and former co-worker while undergoing treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His morale, typically, was upbeat. "I just have this new golf book, maybe one of the best I ever read, and I want you to have it because there's so much in it that reminds me of you."

It was called, "To The Linksland," by Michael Bamberger of the Philadelphia Inquirer. George identified with the writing because much of it was about Scotland and described courses where his father had learned to play a game he passed on to his son with deep respect and affection.

George Blair Taylor, an exemplary citizen, possessed all the admirable characteristics that identify the best of the human spirit.

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