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Former USGA President Taylor Passes
F. Morgan "Buzz" Taylor Jr., a former president of the United States Golf Association, died of lymphoma October 29 in his Florida home. He was 79.
Mr. Taylor was firmly committed to golf and came to the belief that new ball and club technology was adversely changing the game. He generated considerable controversy in 1998 when he discussed the possibility of banning titanium clubs, declaring: "No lawyer is going to stop us."
"He was a man of the highest integrity and felt the standards of golf needed to be upheld," said his son, John. "He couldn't care less what the equipment manufacturers or anyone else thought."
"Buzz guided the USGA through a sensitive time and his impact was significant," said current USGA President Jim Hyler. "All who knew Buzz were brought to a smile with the mention of his name. He will be truly missed."
Mr. Taylor was born in Quincy, Ill., and grew up there before his family moved to Evanston and Skokie. His father was a teacher, coach and later an executive with Marshall Field & Co. His mother was a social worker. In a 1998 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Taylor said he fell in love with golf as a 9-year-old caddie at Evanston Golf Club. He also picked up an affinity for track from his father, who won the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles in the 1924 Olympics, and bronze medals in the 1928 and 1932 games.
His father gave him the nickname "Buzz" because of the way the boy ran around the house.
Mr. Taylor was a three-sport athlete at Western Military Academy in Alton, Ill., and became a football star at Princeton, playing on a team with 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier. At the 1952 Olympic trials, he missed earning a spot on the track team in the long jump by a quarter-inch.
After two years as an Army lieutenant, he married munitions heiress Barbara Olin in 1954 and went to work for her father's company, Olin Industries. In 1959, they moved to New Haven, Conn., and started the Olin Ski Co.
Mr. Taylor returned to Chicago in 1974 as president of Victor Comptometer, which made a hook- and slice-resistant golf ball called the Polara. In 1981, he bought AquaVac Systems, the nation's largest manufacturer of commercial swimming pool-cleaning robots.
Mr. Taylor joined the USGA Executive Committee in 1986, serving as secretary, treasurer and vice president before being named president in 1998. During his two-year term as president he said his main goal was "preserving the integrity of the game," which led to his remarks about new technology.
"I'm an upfront guy," Mr. Taylor told the Tribune in 1998. "Maybe too much that way."
His blunt comments about placing limits on club technology led equipment companies to take out full-page ads in national newspapers threatening the USGA with lawsuits, prompting Mr. Taylor's famous "no lawyer" remark.
In a 1999 Sports Illustrated story headlined "Devil's Advocate," equipment executives called Mr. Taylor a man with an "ideological mind-set" and "a loose cannon on the ramparts of golf."
But Mr. Taylor had powerful friends in golf, including Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who supported slowing down technology. "What's it going to be 20 years from now?" Mr. Taylor told the Tribune. "Are we going to have a completely different game? We have to look at the equipment to see what we can do to ensure that the game's ancient and honorable traditions are upheld."
That argument continues today.
Taylor was also a member of the Rules Committee at the Masters and a director of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Although he was often considered blunt, Mr. Taylor's friends and family said he was gregarious and had a great sense of humor. During his illness, he received dozens of letters from caddies wishing him well.
"He was friends with everyone from pro golfers to caddies," his son said. "My father saw them all the same way. And to them, he was just Buzz."
Taylor is also survived by his wife, Dr. Barbara Olin Taylor; three other sons, F. Morgan III, Spencer and James; a sister, Kaye Taylor Patterson; two brothers, James and Arch; and 10 grandchildren.