George Low Jr. could putt better with his foot than anybody else could putt with a putter, and with a putter he was even better. I'm 88 years old, and I've played with all the good putters: Bobby Locke, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw. George Low could putt better than any of them. He putted like Tiger Woods when Tiger was making everything. I could putt, but when George was looking for putting matches, I never messed with him.
Dan Jenkins called him America's Guest. George went to every Tour event and never paid for a room and not too many meals. He was a good player. He was low pro in 1945 when an amateur, Freddie Haas, ended Byron Nelson's winning streak at 11 at the Memphis Open. But George was more interested in giving putting lessons, selling putters and hustling amateurs who didn't know better.
One time in Havana, before Castro, he had a putting match with the ice cream king of Cuba. The ice cream king used a putter. George used his foot. Took the guy for $35,000. Guy paid on the spot. I saw it.
Back in the 1950s there were bookies at all the tournaments, and you could get action on anything. One year in Reading, Pennsylvania, George, well past his prime, got himself a beautiful payday simply for making the cut. Then he didn't play the weekend. I asked him why. He said, "Rookie, I just made $5,000 for making the cut. First place pays $1,500. I'm going to play two days for that?" He probably went to the track. He knew the good jocks, and they'd tell him what horses to play.
He always called me Rookie. I met George in a hotel lobby my first year on Tour, in 1950. He said to me, "Rookie, give me $50." I said, "Fifty dollars is a lot of money, George. I can give you $20." He took the $20. I saw him a little later, probably at the hotel bar. I thought he was going to hit me up again. But he didn't. He said, "Rookie, here's your $20 back." I guess he was testing me. For the next 40 years I was Rookie. He died in '95 at age 83. His ashes were spread at Cog Hill.
He was never a spender. We drove the Tour in the '50s, and I remember one long drive we made together. Whenever it was time to pay for gas he was in the bathroom. I never drove with him again.
I once asked him how he became such a good putter. He said, "I didn't go to school. I went to the putting green." His father, George Low Sr., was from Scotland. He was the pro at Baltusrol and tied for second in the 1899 U.S. Open. George Jr. knew the top club pros all over the country. I don't think George ever married or had children. When he wasn't out on Tour, he stayed at a motel on the Atlantic City Country Club course. He was a friend of the owners, the Fraser family. Leo Fraser was an officer of the PGA of America forever.
For decades, though, George was at most Tour stops. I'd see him at the Masters every year, hanging out near the putting green. He was great friends with two Masters winners, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret. They loved him. They must have got him in. George was a natural. He was one of the guys.
George helped Arnold Palmer with his putting. Arnold gave him a big public thank-you after he won the 1960 Masters. Arnold used a George Low putter for a while. Nicklaus used one for years. Jack won 15 majors with the George Low Sportsman Wizard 600, a blade putter with a big flange and George's signature on the bottom, brushing the grass. How many guys can say they got Nicklaus and Palmer worked out on the greens? George sold a lot of those Wizards. I think he was pretty flush there for a time.
George and Arnold had a falling out over something. Maybe George wanted more public credit from Arnold, maybe he wanted a check—I don't know. When he was beered up, George could be obnoxious, and maybe Arnold had had enough.