Hardly a golf course where George Bayer has played during his six years on the professional golfing circuit is without a legend about one of his enormous drives. On the 250-yard 8th hole at Tam O'Shanter he scored a hole in one, using his one-iron. On the 445-yard 7th hole at Tucson, where the air is thin and a 15-mph wind was in his favor, Bayer drove his tee shot 10 yards past the flag-stick. On the par-5 13th hole at Las Vegas he hit a drive that traveled 420 yards.
At Cypress Point in California club members marvel over a drive Bayer once hit on the 334-yard dogleg 18th. Helped by a tail wind, the ball sailed over some cypress trees and, still on the fly, struck a startled contestant on the far edge of the green alongside the clubhouse. "I'd have been in trouble if it hadn't hit him," Bayer says with a slight wince that is the closest he ever comes to a grin. "It would have gone off into the parking lot and been a rough shot to play back."
According to Bayer's own testimony, the most memorable shot of his career was made at the Lakes Club in Sydney, Australia during an exhibition match in 1956. On a hole that measured 589 yards, Bayer hit a drive that stopped about 50 yards from the green. "I guess that was about my longest," he says casually. "But remember I had some wind with me, the fairway was baked hard by the sun and it was a little downhill."
Most golfers are prouder of a long drive than a new born son, but Bayer speaks of his monumental shots with an indifference bordering on ennui. It seems to rankle with him that, as the longest hitter in golf, he is regarded by many fans as a sort of freak rather than one of the three dozen best professionals in the game, which he certainly is.
In the midst of a recent tournament Bayer was out on the practice green working on his putting when an elderly fellow started chatting with him. "You're the longest hitter there ever was, George," said the man. "Why, you can hit the ball farther than Tom Morris," referring to a Scot who was in his prime about the time that Disraeli was Prime Minister.
"Well, that was a long time ago," said Bayer politely.
"How many balls do you use during a round?" asked the old fellow.
"Usually about four," said Bayer.
The elderly man turned to a friend, "He has to change balls all the time because he beats them out of shape."
"That's not true," said Bayer. He then walked away, having talked enough about a phase of his golf that interests him less and less the more he hears and reads about it.