The following account is about a man named George Lucas. No… not the Star Wars guy. This George Lucas was never a movie maker, but he has had an illustrious career during which he has displayed a range of extraordinary accomplishments; Yes… in the arena of golf. And, I had the privilege of knowing him personally.
• A professional caddie on the PGA tour.
o Arnold Palmer’s personal caddie throughout 1980-81.
o Inducted into the Professional Caddie Association’s “Hall-Of-Fame” in 2009.
• An exceptional amateur golfer.
o Won the Massachusetts Public Links Championship in 1979.
o New Hampshire Open Champion in 1980.
• An entrepreneur.
• The greatest Yardologist the world has ever known.
As an Air Force brat George grew up in England, Japan, Florida and Georgia. He loved golf, and was a very good junior player. But, after two years of college golf at Georgia Southern, he knew he’d never attain his dream of playing the PGA tour.
In January of 1974 he decided to leave school and head to California where the winter swing of PGA tour events was underway… his hope was to pick-up a job as a looper. George had immediate luck when he hooked up with tour professional Bobby Walzel. In only his second event with his new employer Walzel won.
Gorjus George Hall-Of-Fame Induction 2010
Shortly after the win George new he was accepted by his fellow caddies. You see, getting a colorful nickname is a must among the close-knit fraternity of tour caddies. When, because of his long flowing blond hair (at the time), Jerry Pruitt (Lanny Wadkins regular caddie) dubbed him Gorgeous George… he knew he was
“I changed the spelling,” said George in a 1996 interview. “I liked j better than g, and I shortened it to fit on a vanity license plate.”
I suspect you can tell… Gorjus George was, and likely still is, a very flamboyant Character.
On the tour as a regular caddie George quickly became aware that a good deal of his success would be determined by the detail he could supply his player. Until the early 1960’s top golfers judged distance by sight and feel. It was Jack Nicklaus and Deane Beman who were first to start making their own yardage books. The job of mapping the course soon became the responsibility of the player’s caddie. It was an endeavor that George loved.
By the mid 1970’s some caddies were developing (for distribution to the players) yardage books, but they weren’t very good. George saw and seized an opportunity.
Gorjus George set a new standard at the 1976 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club when he came out with “THE BOOK”. It was detailed like nothing ever done in the past, and 50% of the players in the field purchased George’s book for $5.
“Pros are spooky about tastes,” George once said. “As soon as they bit on my first book, I knew I was in business.” It wasn’t long before every pro was flipping through “THE BOOK” every week of a tournament.
Remember, this was the 1970’s, long before the advent of GPS. Mapping courses required pacing (he also used a surveyor’s cable), sketching and an understanding of the terrain from the golfers’ perspective… a unique set of skills for this type of map making; George was the best.
In the early years of his new business Mondays and Tuesdays were spent plotting the courses; Thursdays through Sundays were work days on the bag of his player. George was a very busy man. But, after a few years of double duty the revenue from “THE BOOK” was sufficient for him to give up his career as a looper.
“THE BOOK” has always been in keeping with George’s flamboyance. Not only is every book detailed to the nth degree; there are always descriptions that make them most interesting. For example large mounded areas are referred to as “Dolly Partons”, streams are adorned with fish, water hazards with scuba divers, birds in areas of dense woods… and an occasional chuckle with a note next to a yardage where a pro should never be like J.I.C.Y.R.S.U. Translation: Just In Case You Screw Up.
As the years have moved on technology has replaced the unique skills of the Yardologist. GPS distance finders and laser mapping have reached a level of sophistication well beyond what traditional techniques can match… no matter what the level of talent a true Yardologist might posess. Yes, even the likes of Gorjus George.
The last time I saw George was at the 2010 PGA Show in Orlando, Florida; he had sold his name to a Houston based yardage book company named Stackaline. He was at the show as a representative of the company, and to be inducted into the Professional Caddie Hall-Of-Fame.
Through 50+ years in golf I have been very fortunate to meet a host of colorful characters; all of whom, like me, share a passion for the game of golf. Gorjus George, the greatest Yardologist of all time, is one who I will always remember.