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George Bayer, 77; Noted for Long Drives in Golf

March 20, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

George Bayer, who won several PGA Tour events in the 1950s and was once considered one of golf's longest drivers, has died. He was 77.

Bayer died Sunday of a heart attack at his home in Palm Desert.

An All-American tackle and end at the University of Washington, he played professional football briefly with the Washington Redskins.

After giving up the game, he moved to Los Angeles and became a car dealer. He turned to golf for recreation but, after three years, took up the sport seriously. He turned pro at the age of 29.

At 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds in his prime, Bayer developed into one of the longest drivers in the game, hitting shots exceeding 300 yards during a time of wooden clubs and low-technology golf balls.

He once set a record with a tournament drive of 436 yards. It was later surpassed.

"Big George could knock the living snot out of the ball," golfer Sam Snead told the Washington Times some years ago. "I once saw Bayer drive a ball through the green on a 430-yard hole, and that was 40 years ago -- before the age of metal woods, graphite shafts and the modern golf ball."

On the PGA tour Bayer won the 1957 Canadian Open, the 1958 Havana Invitational, the 1958 Mayfair Inn Open and the 1960 St. Petersburg Open. He later played on the PGA Seniors Tour.

Bayer earned $428,862 on the PGA and Senior PGA tours before retiring from regular competition in 1997.

Born in Bremerton, Wash., he enlisted in the Navy out of high school, enrolled at the University of Washington after World War II and played football for the Huskies in 1946-49.

As a senior, he played in the 1949 East-West Shrine Game and was drafted in the 20th round by the Redskins. But he quit after six games because of a dispute with the team owner, George Preston Marshall.

A series of amateur golf tournament appearances led to an invitation to play with entertainers Bob Hope and Danny Kaye, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and actor Gary Cooper at a celebrity event in Palm Springs. Bayer then was invited to the National Celebrities tournament in Washington, D.C., in 1953, and within two years he was a regular on the PGA Tour.

Survivors include his wife, Marianne, and five children.

Funeral services are scheduled for Friday in Palm Desert.

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