Minnesota Golfer - Directory 2023 - 38

"
of " Playbill " theatre programs. There were over 600 programs
from every show he saw, probably in chronological order.
George was a hoarder. Later he invited his women friends into his
home to attempt to clean out the house. " It was a walk back through
his life, " one observed.
He made one more trip to New York City. " 'Annie' is closing, " he
told me. " I've seen every actress that ever played Annie, except this one.
I think I better go see her. " George was able to be himself in the
theatre community. Nobody cared what he looked like or who
he was attracted to. While he would see all the touring shows
that came to Phoenix, he loved the various youth theaters. He
particularly enjoyed musicals. If a show had a seven- or 10-day
run, he would go to every performance, always arriving an hour
early. He would go to a play every day, sometimes two in a day.
He was intense.
In the theatre community he developed at least three close relationships
with women. I asked his close friend, PGA Tour official
Mark Russell, if he ever interacted much with women when he was
in golf.
" No, " Mark said.
It was a 180-degree shift in relationships.
In the theatre community he was able to be his authentic self,
said one of his woman friends he came out to.
At intermission of a performance of " Music Man, " George stood
with a theater couple. It became obvious from the conversations that
their son, who had the lead in the play, was a person who was gay.
" Your son is gay? " George asked.
" Yes. "
" And you still love him? "
" Of course. "
" I'm gay, " George said.
" He went through a catharsis in looking at himself and not
seeing a failure, " a female friend said. " He had a self-loathing
for many years. "
After meeting a new female friend, George questioned
whether he should give her his phone number. Calling a mutual
acquaintance, he asked " Can she be trusted? " He was afraid she
would embarrass him, knowing he was gay.
The friendship grew and George eventually let out his secret.
" I have something to tell you. I'm gay. " He looked at her waiting
for a reaction. " Does that change anything? "
" It took a long time to gain his trust, " she told me. " His friendship
was the greatest friendship in my life. " She started to tear up.
" He could see I had a broken heart and he wanted to mend it. He
opened my heart. " She paused. " He spent his life helping people
He spent his life
helping people
find their authentic
self. He had a
way of seeing the
hurt in people. "
-A friend
find their authentic self. He had a way of seeing the hurt in people. "
George was afraid to come out because, " They wouldn't
understand, " he told his friend.
" The people who love you the most will love you more for who
you are, " she responded.
He craved touch. Frequently when he would talk to the women
he would lay his hand on their arm or hand. " We would go to
plays and sit cheek-to-cheek, " she said.
" I went to lunch with his brother Bill, after George passed. We
went to the same Olive Garden I always went to with George.
The hostess recognized me and asked about George. When we
told her he had passed away she said, sadly, 'Who is going to
hold my hand when I walk you back to the booth?' "
He loved the young people in the plays, and they loved him.
To each young actor he spoke with he would say, " I saw you up
there. You were great. You'll be good. Stay with it. "
" He cared about all the kids, " she said. George did for others what
no one could do for him, know and accept him for his authentic self.
I sat at George's celebration of life at Camelback Country
Club surrounded by 200 of George's friends. The theatre group
told heartwarming stories of a loving, caring person. The golf
group, many of whom sat stunned, were regaled with tales of the
silly, funny things George had said and done.
" That answers a lot of questions, " reflected Mike Morley, a
former ASU and PGA Tour player, and mutual friend.
Everybody loved George in both of his lives. He was a tortured
soul who finally found his true self before the end of his life.
About the Author: Cal Simmons is a Western Golf Association Director, former MGA President, and recipient of the MGA Warren
J. Rebholz Distinguished Service Award. His blog, " A Life In Golf, " (alifein.golf) features an unabridged version of this story.
38
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