George Will (Back row - fourth from the left) in the 1965 Great Britain Ryder Cup Team (Getty Images)
George Will, who has died, aged 73, made three appearances in The Ryder Cup and was regarded as one of the most stylish professionals of his time.
Indeed in his first Ryder Cup for Great Britain he partnered his good friend Brian Huggett to a superb 3 and 2 win over Arnold Palmer and Johnny Pott in the opening foursomes match on the first morning at East Lake Country Club, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963.
George Duncan Will was born in Ladybank, Fife, on April 16, 1937, and he survived a serious illness as a boy to take his place in the history of golf initially as the winner of the Scottish Boys’ Championship in 1955 then the British Youths Championship two years later during an excellent amateur career. He also won the Army Championship twice during National Service.
Will turned professional in 1957 and won the Northern Open the next year. He became a full time tournament golfer in 1960 and won the Smart Weston tournament in 1964. His biggest success came in the Esso Golden Round Robin in 1965 when at Moor Park, Hertfordshire, he accumulated 24 points – a total that was only once surpassed in the six year history of that highly acclaimed tournament. From 1964 to 1971 he finished in the top 20 of the Order of Merit no fewer than six times and of those three were top ten finishes.
He was also an international player as he competed on the Asian circuit in 1966 when he tied for the Singapore Open only to lose in a play-off, and for many years he coached the National Team of Belgium.
His consistency earned him three Ryder Cup appearances – in 1963, 1965 and 1967 – and following his outstanding start in 1963 he again won in 1965 his opening foursomes match – this time with Dave Thomas – against Arnold Palmer and Dave Marr at Royal Birkdale, Southport. A halved match in partnership again with Brian Huggett against Billy Casper and Julius Boros in 1967 at the Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas, ensured that Will would have an unbeaten record in the opening matches of each of his three Ryder Cups. He also represented Scotland three times in The World Cup of Golf.
Following his tournament career, Will became the club professional at Sundridge Park in Bromley, Kent, where he would link with a young Roger Chapman and together they targeted the 1981 Walker Cup. Chapman successfully made the team before turning professional and Will remained his coach.
Will was a keen footballer and he trained at Charlton Athletic. His other love outside of golf was as a grower of prize roses. He leaves a wife, Jeannie, and their son, Kenneth.
Neil Coles, Chairman of The PGA European Tour Board of Directors, said: “George Will was an outstanding golfer who arrived as a professional at a similar time to myself. I recall that in his first Ryder Cup match he struck his opening shot a country mile down the middle watched by among others Arnold Palmer, one of his opponents that day. That shot said a lot about George’s character. He was a player who relished a challenge and rose to the occasion with a stylish game that entertained the spectators. He will be missed by his many friends in the game and on behalf of George O’Grady, myself and everyone at The European Tour I send our condolences to his family.”
Roger Chapman, who won the Sunningdale Open Foursomes in 1979 in partnership with George Will, said: “George coached me from the age of 13 until very recently. He was my coach, my second father, my mentor and inspiration. He always had time for me when I came to him in-between tournaments to look over my swing. He made me as a player, he inspired everything I ever achieved in golf and he was so happy to know that I had just won my card on the Champions Tour in America. The man was a true great – irreplaceable and he will be sadly missed.”