Golf in Philadelphia has lost a friend.
I was saddened to read of the death last week of George E. Haines Jr. at the age of 64. His obituary in The Inquirer tells most of the story: his accomplishments as an amateur golfer and squash player, his years as a coach of both sports and four others at The Haverford School, where he was also a teacher. George was also the husband of Liz Haines, from Merion Golf Club, who has long been one of the top women players in this city.
George had been in declining health and I hadn't spoken to him for a while. But for years there, we spoke often -- or I should say mostly he spoke. I don't think I've ever had a more ardent and discerning reader than George.
For years before I actually met him, I would get long, detailed phone messages from him. Ever the coach and teacher, he would read every golf story I wrote and critique it in ways that none of my editors did, or could. Instead of As, Bs, or Cs, George would give me birdies, bogeys and pars, sprinkling in the occasional double-bogey or, if I was lucky, an eagle. Sometimes, even within a single story, I'd get a tap-in birdie and a double-bogey. Because the office voice mail system cuts off callers after one minute or so, George would occasionally leave a series of three, four, even five messages in a row to get everything off his chest. Believe me, I took those critiques to heart because I knew that George knew his golf and because I knew he was speaking from his heart.
Perhaps because his wife Liz is such a good player, George took particular interest in women's golf. When he felt The Inquirer hadn't given sufficient coverage to a women's tournament, be it a national women's amateur or a local girls' junior, I would get an earful.
There came a point when I didn't see George at local tournaments any more. Then his phone messages stopped. I knew he had health issues. When I bumped into Liz Haines at a tournament and inquired about George's health, her look of concern told me all I needed to know.
Golf in Philadelphia has lost a dear friend in George Haines and I have lost one of the most valued readers I've ever had.