George Holland, a quintessential gentleman and great friend of the game whose impact on the region’s golf community will be felt for many years to come, passed away on Oct 30, 2017. He was three weeks shy of his 91st birthday.
A champion golfer who won titles on the state and regional level and competed on the national scene that eventually earned him induction into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame, George’s impact on the region’s golf community also came through his decades of service as a volunteer, his two terms as president of the Washington State Golf Association, and his guidance of the WSGA and PNGA through their re-alignment of the early 1990s.
“George’s contribution and significance to amateur golf will never be forgotten,” said WSGA CEO/Executive Director Troy Andrew. “He was not only one of the best amateur competitors in the game, but was someone that volunteered and served selflessly for the betterment of the game. A true gentleman with high integrity that made the Washington State Golf Association what it is today.”
In the late 1970s, George became a Club Representative at Overlake Golf and Country Club in Medina, Wash. for the Washington State Golf Association, beginning a volunteer career that would last for nearly four decades. He served as president of the WSGA two different times, from 1987-1989 and 1993-1995.
It was George who guided the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and the WSGA through the two associations’ re-alignment in the early 1990s, during which the WSGA assumed from the PNGA all the major golf-related services (such as handicapping, course rating, and related services) in the state of Washington, with the PNGA reverting to being a truly regional golf association supporting its allied associations throughout the Northwest and British Columbia.
And it was George’s soothing diplomacy which helped lead the way through the discussions and negotiations leading up to the re-alignment. In 1991 he and PNGA Past President Bill Mays drafted dramatically new bylaws for the WSGA, which were adopted a short time later.
In 1993 George agreed to serve a second stint as WSGA president to assist in seeing the newly-constituted organization through some growing pains.
Afterward, Mays summed up George’s contributions best. “Anyone in golf who knows George Holland has the highest respect for him. Not just because he’s a fine player and consummate amateur, but more importantly, he is a true gentleman and a man of the highest integrity. He truly was the right person at the right time for the WSGA.”
The WSGA George Holland Volunteer of the Year Award, given each year to a volunteer who has made extraordinary contributions to the game, is named in George’s honor.
George held other leadership roles in the golf community, including serving as president of both Overlake Golf and Country Club and Seattle Golf Club.
George also served as a longtime director for the Western Golf Association, whose primary focus in the Northwest is to raise funds for the Evans Caddie Scholarship Program, a program dear to George’s heart, having started in the game as a caddie himself. He is a member of the WGA’s Caddie Hall of Fame.
George’s volunteer work also extended beyond the golf world, and included serving on various community Boards such as Chairman of the Board at Northwest Hospital, Board of Directors of Home Street Bank and Board of Directors of the March of Dimes.
Other than his beloved family, George’s lifelong passion was golf. According to George, “Golf changed my life, opened doors and created opportunities.”
His introduction to the game came at age 13, when he began working as a caddie at Everett (Wash.) Golf and Country Club. He later won the Everett City Amateur Championship.
George joined the Army infantry in 1944 and served in Japan during the occupation after World War II. While in Japan, he played every day as a member of the 8th Army golf team, and absorbed some swing advice from Pete Nakamura, who later beat Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead in winning the Canada Cup title for Japan in 1957.
Upon his return to Washington, George attended Everett Junior College and played for their golf team, winning the Washington State Junior College Golf Championship. For the next three years, George attended the University of Washington and joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and played on the UW men’s golf team.
While attending the UW, George met Diana Thorp and they were married on July 18, 1953. They lived in Rochester, N.Y. for two years, while George worked with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, participating with Jonas Salk in the vaccine field trials. He and Diana then returned to Seattle to raise their three sons, and where George began a long and successful career in the insurance business.
George began playing competitively again at age 31, and would go on to win the PNGA Men’s Amateur twice (1958, 1965), the PNGA Senior Men’s Amateur twice (1985, 1987), and the Washington State Senior Men’s Amateur (1987). He also was a four-time winner of the Northwest Senior’s Golf Association Championship (1984, 1985, 1989, 1992), and was named to the 1967 Morse Cup team, three Hudson Cup teams (1958, 1959, 1965) and was chosen to captain two Senior Hudson Cup teams (1994, 1997). He made it to the semifinals of the 1987 U.S. Senior Amateur.
In 1997, George was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame.
A fine man, who left the world a finer place.
In lieu of flowers, and in honor of George’s love for the region’s caddie programs, please make donations to the Evans Scholars Foundation (1 Briar Rd. Golf, IL 60029).