Former USGA president Buzz Taylor dies at 79

Buzz Taylor, left, and Arnold Palmer during the 2009 Masters.

F. Morgan “Buzz” Taylor Jr., the former USGA president whose tenure was marked by his fierce efforts to protect the game against the advances of equipment technology, died of lymphoma at his home. He was 79.

The son of a school teacher and a social case worker, Taylor grew up in Illinois and became a caddie at Evanston Country Club at age 9. His life-long passion for golf culminated as a 14-year volunteer for the USGA, including two years as president, in 1998-99.

Taylor, who also had served as a former member of the USGA’s Implements and Ball Committee during the square-groove controversy, gained a solid background in technology issues, and it forged his concerns about technology’s impact on the game.

When he became USGA president, he championed his cause with unprecedented candor that not only gained him admirers but made him public enemy No. 1 among equipment manufacturers. His public comments regarding curbing technology, including discussions about possibly banning titanium, prompted equipment company advertisements in national newspapers threatening the USGA with lawsuits.

Taylor retorted infamously: “No lawyer is going to stop us.”

Such exchanges didn’t result in a so-called “roll back” in technology, but ultimately resulted in the USGA developing a protocol governing future equipment creation.

“The USGA extends its deepest sympathy to the Taylor family, who were always ardent supporters of the game and the association,” USGA president Jim Hyler said. “Buzz guided the USGA through a sensitive time, and his impact was significant.”

According to his family, Taylor split his time between homes in Lake Forest and Jupiter Island, Fla. He died Oct. 29.

His father, F. Morgan Taylor, was one of a handful of USA track and field athletes to have won a medal in three Olympics, including the gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1924 Games, according to the USGA. The father’s love of athletics clearly was passed on to the son: Buzz Taylor starred in three sports for Western Military Academy in Alton, Ill., and attended Princeton on a scholarship. For the Tigers, he excelled in track and field, and was an All-American defensive back for the football team.

Taylor, who was chairman of Aqua-Vac Systems, a manufacturer of commercial and residential robotic pool-cleaning equipment, joined the USGA Executive Committee in 1986 and served as secretary, treasurer and vice president before becoming president in 1998.

Judy Bell, who preceded Taylor as president, said: “Buzz believed in the joy of the game and loved the competitive side. We’ve lost a great supporter.”

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Olin Taylor, and four sons, Frederick Morgan Taylor III, John F. Taylor, Spencer O. Taylor and James W. Taylor.

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