Fourth generation of Taylors running Worthington Golf Course

Tyler Merriman, the general manager, continues the family tradition at Worthington Golf Club, 3414 Roseland Ave. in Parkersburg. (Photo by Paul LaPann)

PARKERSBURG — Before his death on Jan. 2, Gale Taylor expressed his wishes that Worthington Golf Club remain in the family.

Three generations of the Taylor family had owned and operated Worthington Golf Club since the course opened in 1941.

Now, a fourth generation of the Taylor family is running Worthington Golf Club.

Tyler Merriman, 32, Gale Taylor’s grandson, was named general manager of Worthington Golf Club in July.

“Granddad (Gale) gave me the endorsement to become GM at one of the last board meetings we had with him,” Merriman said recently. “It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time and will always be a great memory I will have of him.”

Gale Taylor became the majority stockholder in Worthington Golf Club at the end of 2009. Although he was technically retired as course superintendent, Gale Taylor remained actively involved in the business until shortly before his death, Merriman said.

Gale could often be found on the tractor mowing fairways or in his favorite chair on Worthington’s front porch.

“One of the last things Gale expressed was his desire for the family to keep the golf course in operation, continuing a long tradition carried on up to that point by so many of Phil’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Merriman said.

A.P. “Phil” Taylor, Merriman’s great-grandfather, and his friend Buren Lieving bought the initial 75 acres for Worthington Golf Course in 1939 or 1940, and the golf course opened for play in 1941.

Phil Taylor later bought Lieving’s shares in the golf club and purchased additional land to where Worthington GC now has about 125 acres.

At the age of 7 or 8, Merriman began cleaning golf clubs, picking up trash and cleaning out golf carts at Worthington Golf Club. He started working at the club’s snack bar at 19 and has since worked in the pro shop, on grounds projects, renovation projects and now management.

“Growing up I spent a lot of time at the golf course, as my parents worked here in the summer,” Merriman said. “It was a great place for a kid to grow up. All of the regulars become part of the family and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.”

In making the transition to general manager, Merriman said he seeks advice from his aunt Nancy Taylor, a former general manager at Worthington.

Some of the improvements Merriman has planned for Worthington this season are purchasing 10 new golf carts, converting the sand traps to grass bunkers, elevating No. 13 tee box, and planting a lot of grass seed to repair damage from last year’s floods.

Last year was one of the worst years for flooding at Worthington Golf Club, Merriman said. He estimated the course was closed 21 or 22 times last season after Worthington Creek overflowed its banks across the golf course.

“We are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Merriman said.

So far this year, the weather has been good at Worthington, he added.

At various times as many as nine or 10 members of the Taylor family have worked together at Worthington Golf Club. Merriman’s sister Abby, a school teacher, helps at the snack bar in the summers. The current owners are Susan Merriman, Tyler’s mother, and Eric Taylor, his uncle. Norman Taylor, Tyler’s second cousin, has worked at Worthington Golf Club for 50 years and is pro shop manager and coordinates the golf tournaments. Tyler’s father, Dean, has helped out at the golf club.

Merriman said he wants to make Worthington Golf Club a fun place for all ages. He wants to bring back the junior league for young golfers.

Worthington Golf Club’s central location in town allows golfers to play a quick round of golf, Merriman noted. The course is flat and easy for golfers to walk, he adds, “favorable” for young and old golfers.

Worthington is home to two of the oldest golf groups in the state: Worthington Senior Men’s Association and Worthington Women’s Golf Association. The senior men’s gained 15 new members this year, Merriman said.

Merriman said it has been difficult not to have his grandfather at Worthington this season, but “I think if you just take a look out at the course you can see him in his life’s work.”

Gale Taylor would sometimes say, “Problems are only opportunities dressed in work clothes,” Merriman said.

“That’s something I like to remember as we continue operations,” Merriman said.

A memorial service for Gale Taylor will be 2 p.m. Sunday at Worthington Golf Club.