Minnesota Golfer - Directory 2023 - 36

"
George had such
a positive impact
on my life and
so many others.
He believed in me
and gave me the
opportunity to
achieve things in
my life that seemed
unreachable. "
-Jeff Knudson
lived with him for a year.
George played the tour with marginal success. In May 1973,
he called me after the New Orleans Open saying he was done
with the PGA Tour. He was done with golf. After devoting his
life to the game he was ready to move away from playing.
Hidden Secrets
From the time he quit the tour he played only a few rounds the rest
of his life. He used playing and practicing as a cover for his secret.
Earlier in life if he played or practiced, he could stay away from
social situations. Maybe he lacked the desire to get to the next level
in the game because he didn't love to play. He didn't practice for
long periods as most great players did. Deep down he played to
cover his sexuality.
Golf was a perfect cover for being gay, he explained to a female
friend later in his life.
He became a very good bridge player. Many days when he was
playing the tour, he would practice for a couple of hours at the
Phoenix Country Club and then go inside the club and play bridge
for money for hours.
Bridge is a game requiring intuition, skill and focus. Successful
bridge players are not sloppy, silly, acting out in a haphazard way. It
fit his private personality, cerebral, focused, not the act he showed
the public.
During the late '60s and early '70s he had several selfdestructive
habits. George was
a
two-pack-a-day smoker.
Walking past his bedroom when I rented a room from him, I
could see the lit end of a cigarette glowing in the dark. George
36
MINNESOTAGOLFER Directory 2023
was having his last smoke before going to sleep.
Another of his habits was setting an alarm to wake
up at 4 a.m. He would then smoke two cigarettes, eat a
package of Oreo cookies, drink a Coke, and go back to
bed. He called it 'snack time.'
He drank to excess. " I was on tour and living with
George in the early '70s, " Bill Brask said. " We would go
to the Pink Pony restaurant in Scottsdale every night
we were in town. George would have two or three
martinis, a steak and a baked potato, then two Black
Russians. There were some harrowing car rides home.
At home he would stick his fingers down his throat
and vomit. "
I have since learned this is common among gays triggered
by the stress of being in the closet. There is a 60
percent higher incidence of an eating disorder among
people who are gay than the general population.
After playing the tour, he was an assistant pro at
Papago Golf Course, a public course in Scottsdale.
Working for his head professional friend, Arch
Watkins, George could not have been a better
employee, meticulous on the job, always on time.
In the three years George was at Papago his selfdestructive
habits continued. Abusive eating, concentrating
on doughnuts, alcohol and smoking, kept his sexuality hidden
from his friends. He would laugh, the guys would laugh.
However, he was tortured.
Inspiring the Next Generation
Working behind the counter at Papago was always an interim
job as he kept his eye open for a different opportunity. Finally,
a job he wanted opened up in 1976: head coach of Arizona State
University's men's golf team.
This was the first time his love of young people became evident.
By all accounts he was a great coach. Dedicated to his players, I
once asked him why he worked so hard. He responded, " Because
every decision I make has an effect on a young person. "
Words of praise poured in following news of his death.
" He had a great eye for talent, " said Barry Conser, who was on
the team from 1979-1984. " He would take a player on a trip after
a poor qualifying, believing he had more talent than others.
Many times he was right. "
" George always gave me hope! He didn't give me a spot on the
team, but I felt he believed in me. What more could a student
athlete ask? In 1983, I became George's and ASU's first NCAA golf
champion. What an honor considering the great names that came
before me. Coach remained a mentor well into my professional
career on the PGA Tour because as he became a fantastic tour
rules official, " said 1983 NCAA champion Jim Carter.
" George had such a positive impact on my life and so many
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