George Holland began his golfing career as a caddie at age 13 at Everett Golf & Country Club. He later won the the Everett City Amateur Championship and sharpened his game in Japan following World War II. In Japan, he played every day as a member of the 8th Army golf team. He absorbed some valuable advice from Pete Nakamura, who later beat Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead in winning the Canada Cup title for Japan in 1957.
Holland attended Everett Junior College for two quarters; during that time he won the Washington State Junior College Golf Championship. For the next three years, he was on a University of Washington golf team that included such fine players as Eddie Draper, Jim Mallory and Joe Greene.
Insurance & Golf
Holland worked in New York for two years with the National Foundation fro Infantile Paralysis, participating with Jonas Salk in the Salk vaccine field trials. He then returned to Seattle and began a career in the insurance business. For Holland and others, selling insurance and playing top-flight golf went hand in hand. Several of Seattle's leading golfers were associated with insurance firms during their playing careers. Besides Holland, there are Harry Givan, Jerry Fehr, Dick Williams, Bruce Richards, Paul Johanson and Bob Ihlanfeldt. These players won dozens of amateur championships at the club, state and regional levels.
People in the insurance industry enjoy flexibility in their work schedules to compete in PNGA and state golf championships. The luckier players were even able to set aside time for national competitions. In George Holland's case, he did not participate in a PNGA event until he returned to Seattle at age 31.
"(The insurance business) works out well with golf," Holland said. "I'm able to vary my time. The hardest part is completely divorcing my thoughts from business while I am playing. In a tournament like the PNGA, when you leave town for a week, you can get away from everything and ordinarily play much better.
Holland's PNGA Experience
The first time Holland entered a PNGA Men's Amateur Championship in 1958, he defeated Bill O'Brian, who later became a golf professional, for the title at Fircrest Golf Club, 4 &2. Holland, who considered himself a "Sunday golfer" at Overlake Golf & Country Club in Medina, shot a superb morning round of 71 to take a 4-up lead at the break. O'Brian, at the time a Seattle police sergeant, was never able to pare the deficit.
Neither Holland no O'Brian had ever played in a PNGA event, although both were prominent players for years in Puget Sound amateur golf circles. Holland achieved success while attending Everett Junior College and the University of Washington. O'Brian, who frequented Jefferson Park Golf Course was a former King County Public Links champion.
After his victory in 1958, Holland for the most part, experienced tough times in the PNGA Men's Amateur, losing in the early rounds six times before winning a second time in 1965 at Tacoma Country & Golf Club. Holland reached the finals after notching victories over Orrin Vincent, a star on the Seattle University golf team, Herb Fritz, Erv Parent and Steve Ryan. In the final, Holland defeated Butch Ogilvy, a college student from Portland, 2 & 1.
For the 151 holes he played during the six-day marathon, Holland was three-under-par, and he had only three three-putt greens. Afterward, George said he played as well as he was capable. He was not doubt helped by a training program he'd began two months before the championship, where he ran and exercised each morning before going to work.
In recalling his 1965 PNGA Men's Amateur victory, Holland said, "Those last three days of the tournament were a real grind. You play 36 holes each day. By Saturday I was exhausted." As a result of the many hours of practice he'd put in during his younger days, Holland enjoyed a nicely grooved swing and considerable length. During the 1965 PNGA, he was able to hit the ball as long as most of his younger opponents. But he didn't try for distance, instead opting to play a two-iron or a four- or three-wood off the tees of many par-four holes.
The strategy paid off, particularly in the later holes of the matches when the pressure got to his younger opponents and they started spraying shots. According to Holland, veteran players are disadvantaged because they play little tournament golf compared to collegians who enter virtually every event between spring and fall. Each Summer, Holland played in only three or four tournaments -- including the Iglewood Invitational, the PNGA, and a few others in the Seattle area.
Holland Takes to the Senior Circuit
Holland enjoyed a distinct competitive advantage when he entered senior events though. No longer did he have to compete with players who seemingly did little but play golf. In the 1985 PNGA Senior Men's Amateur at Rippling River Resort (now called Resort at the Mountain) in north-central Oregon, a large field was treated to three days of fine golf, spectacular scenery and warm hospitality. The tranquil setting and social activities must have been to Holland's liking, because he, by then a member of Seattle Golf Club, opened with a three-under-par 67. Holland never looked back as he followed that opening salvo with rock-solid rounds of 70 and 69 in securing a 12-stroke victory over fellow Seattle member and defending PNGA Senior Men's Amateur champion, Keith Welts. Proving that victory wasn't a fluke, Holland later advanced to the semifinals of the 1987 U.S. Senior Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
In 1987 an overflow field of 210 contestants converged on the newly-remodeled Manito Golf & Country Club in Spokane. Two-time champion, Carl Jonson, got off to a great start by shooting a 72 to claim an early one-stroke lead over Holland. George, however, responded with a second-round 72 and followed with a closing 74 for a three-round total of 219 and another PNGA victory. Runner-up Bruce Pelmore, or Royal Colwood Golf & Country Club in Victoria, finished two strokes back.
While George's playing accomplishments are significant, perhaps his greatest contributions have come through his service as a volunteer. During the late 1970's, Holland was asked to serve as Overlake Golf & Country Club's representative to the Washington State Golf Association (WSGA). This began a volunteer career spanning over two decades. He would later serve as the association's President two different times, from 1987 to 1989 and 1993 to 1995.
Since its inception in the 1920's, the WSGA's sole service to the state's golfers was that it annually conducted the men's state amateur championship. Until the late 1980's, most amateur golf administration in the state of Washington fell into the jurisdiction of the PNGA, which did most of the handicapping, course ratings, and related services. For all practical purposes, since most of its activities were in the state of Washington at that time, the PNGA had become the Washington State Golf Association. This structure did not make sense to many people within the two organizations and, in 1989 largely under the direction of Dr. Robert Jacobs of Everett Golf & Country Club, a Director on both the PNGA and WSGA boards, discussions began regarding a reorganization or "realignment" of the two associations.
Finally, in 1994, the long-awaited change came. Through the PNGA/WSGA Realignment agreement, the WSGA assumed from the PNGA all the major golf-related services in the state of Washington. With the restructuring, the PNGA would be able to revert to being a true regional amateur golf association, serving golfers throughout the Northwest instead of mainly Washington.
Through all of this change, Holland's diplomacy helped lead the way through often-sensitive discussions. In 1991 he and PNGA Past President, Bill Mays of Canterwood Golf & Country Club in Gig Harbor, Washington, drafted dramatically new bylaws for the WSGA, which were adopted a short time later.
There were detractors of the realignment, however, and therein lies one of Holland's greatest contributions. In 1993 he agreed to serve a second stint as WSGA President to assist in seeing the newly-constituted organization through some growing pains. With George's guidance, the WSGA grew into one of America's largest state amateur golf associations and expanded its services to a membership in excess of 90,000. Thanks largely to George Holland, the WSGA thrives today.
Mays summed up Holland'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."