In his prime, George Bayer was known as being one of the longest hitters in golf. But indicative of his four wins on the PGA Tour, Bayer possessed an all-around game. A native of Bremerton, Washington, Bayer was a tall, burly man at 6’5’’ and 230 pounds. After serving in the Navy in WW II, he played football at the University of Washington and was drafted by the NFL’s Washington Redskins in 1950.
As a golfer, he turned pro at age 29 in 1954 and earned his first win three years later at the Canadian Open. He would win twice the next year at the Havana Invitational in a playoff against Sam Snead and again at the Mayfair Open by one stroke over Michigan’s Chick Harbert. His final win on the PGA Tour was in ’60 at the St. Petersburg Open in a playoff against Jack Fleck. On two occasions, he lost in a playoff: in 1957 at the Western Open and in 1961 at the Ontario Open.
Bayer played in all the majors except the British Open with his best finish being a T-3 at the ’62 PGA Championships. He became the head golf professional at Detroit Golf Club in 1972 and was there until 1983. In Michigan, his most notable title was the 1973 Michigan Open.
Bayer played on the PGA Tour’s Senior Tour, now known as the Champions Tour, and won the ’97 Liberty of Mutual Legends of Golf with Jim Ferree. That same year, he retired from competition ending up with $428,862 in earnings on the PGA Tour.
In an era of low-tech golf balls and wooden club heads, Bayer’s length off the tee was remarkable. He once held the record for the longest drive at 589 yards and regularly hit it 300 yards.
He passed away in 2003 in Palm Desert, CA, at age 77.
Year inducted: 2019